Overview of the Genetics of Alcohol Use Disorder PMC

A comprehensive review by the University of Cambridge, which analyzed 12 studies involving twins and adopted children, found that genetics accounts for about half of the risk for alcoholism. Having a family history of alcoholism may increase your susceptibility to developing an alcohol use disorder, but it does not guarantee that you will become an alcoholic. Your choices, lifestyle, environment, support systems, and access to effective interventions Genetics of Alcoholism all play crucial roles in shaping your relationship with alcohol. Environmental factors also account for the risk of alcohol and drug abuse.2 Scientists are learning more about how epigenetics affect our risk of developing AUD. Research shows that genetic and environmental factors play a role in its development. AUD is a complex disorder, and likely hundreds if not thousands of genes contribute to its broad and varied phenotype.

In the study of complex disorders, it has become apparent that quite
large sample sizes are critical if robust association results are to be
identified which replicate across studies. Unfortunately, studies of alcohol
dependence have not yet attained these sample sizes. Meta-analyses, which
combine results across a number of studies in order to attain the critical
sample sizes needed, are being developed. Moreover, aggressive marketing strategies by alcohol brands, offering promotions and discounts, can further entice individuals, especially those with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, to indulge more than they might have otherwise. It’s crucial for regulatory bodies to monitor and control such influences, ensuring that they don’t exacerbate the substance use disorders already prevalent in society. People with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism often start drinking due to environmental stressors.

Are children of alcoholics more likely to become alcoholics themselves?

Research using family, adoption, and twin studies was the first to demonstrate the role of genetics in AUD. The Australian twin-family study of alcohol use disorder (OZALC) found a greater concordance of alcohol dependence in monozygotic (56% for males) compared to dizygotic twins (33% for males) and a heritability estimate of 64% (Heath et al., 1997). One sample using male twins from the Vietnam Era Twin Registry reported different heritability estimates for 23 symptoms of alcohol dependence, further highlighting the heterogeneity of AUD (Slutske et al., 1999). While there is overlap between alcohol use disorder and alcohol consumption, the researchers did further analysis and found a “distinct genetic architecture” differentiating alcohol abuse from alcohol consumption. And these distinctions will be important for identifying the genetics of addiction, the researchers said.

is alcoholism genetic

For instance, the ADH1B gene, commonly studied in association studies, has been linked to the brain’s reward pathways. Additionally, researchers like Edenberg and Gelernter have explored how genetic variations might influence neurotransmitters like GABA, providing insights into the complex interplay between our genes, our brain, and our behaviors. Recent research from Indiana University has shed light on the significant role genes play in the development of alcohol use disorders (AUDs). The study, led by Feng Zhou, Ph.D., professor emeritus of anatomy, cell biology, and physiology at IU School of Medicine, discovered that altering a group of genes known to influence neuronal plasticity and pain perceptions is linked to AUDs. Their studies have shown that genes like ADH1B and ALDH2 are crucial in alcohol metabolism, with specific variants more prevalent in the Asian population.

Alcohol metabolism and the risk for AUD

The genes with the clearest contribution to the risk for alcoholism and
alcohol consumption are alcohol dehydrogenase 1B (ADH1B) and
aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2; mitochondrial aldehyde
dehydrogenase), two genes central to the metabolism of alcohol (Figure 1)20. Alcohol is metabolized primarily in the liver, although there
is some metabolism in the upper GI tract and stomach. The first step in ethanol
metabolism is oxidation to acetaldehyde, catalyzed primarily by ADHs; there are 7
closely related ADHs clustered on chromosome 4 (reviewed in20). The second step is metabolism of the
acetaldehyde to acetate by ALDHs; again, there are many aldehyde dehydrogenases,
among which ALDH2 has the largest impact on alcohol consumption20.

  • Genetics may play a role in alcohol use disorder (AUD), but other factors might also contribute to the development of this condition.
  • Our goal is to identify the specific genes that can influence a person’s likelihood of developing alcoholism.
  • Your socioeconomic status is made up of economic and societal factors such as your income, level of education, employment, location of residence, and available resources.
  • COGA researchers have also analyzed candidate genes—genes suspected to play a role in the development of alcoholism based on other studies.
  • Subsequent analyses that included the additional markers supported the initial findings (Foroud et al. 2000) but did not narrow the chromosomal regions in which genes influencing alcoholism susceptibility are likely to lie.

Some genes may contribute to an increased susceptibility to addictions
in general. Importins are involved in transport of proteins and RNA
between nucleus and cytoplasm, and serotonin has been implicated in many neural
processes; HTR1A agonists reduce the anxiety-like behavior induced by repeated
ethanol withdrawals in rats79. Analyses of RNA expression in lymphoblastoid cell lines suggested that SNPs
within this region on chromosome 5 had cis-acting regulatory
effects on the expression of HTR1A or
IPO11.

New NIH study reveals shared genetic markers underlying substance use disorders

Living with inherited mental health conditions may increase the likelihood of developing alcohol use disorder. You may be more likely to develop this condition if you have a history of the condition in your family. AUD doesn’t form because of a single gene, nor are genetics the only reason why someone develops an alcohol use disorder.

is alcoholism genetic

Alcohol use disorder used to be referred to as alcoholism, alcohol addiction, or alcohol abuse. This condition affects several brain systems, which can cause some people to form a physical dependency on alcohol. Diagnoses of alcohol dependence according to several diagnostic systems ( e.g., DSM-III-R, Feighner, ICD-10) are made based on examination of medical records and direct assessment using the Semi-Structured Assessment for Genetics of Alcoholism (SSAGA). What this means for family members of alcoholics is that you are not necessarily going to misuse alcohol yourself.

Is Alcoholism Genetic? Here’s What You Need to Know

While efforts are ongoing (Dick and Agrawal, 2008), no AUD GWAS meta-analysis currently exists. Recent investigations of the intersection of AUD with epidemiological factors and comorbid psychiatric disorders indicate the high and rising prevalence of AUD in the https://ecosoberhouse.com/article/genetics-of-alcoholism-is-alcohol-abuse-hereditary/ United States. Furthermore, AUD frequently co-occurs with other psychiatric disorders, including mood and anxiety disorders (Regier et al., 1990), post-traumatic stress disorder (Sampson et al., 2015), and other substance use disorders (Kessler et al., 1997).

  • Our hereditary behaviors interact with our environment to form the basis of our decisions.
  • Many people seek medical treatment for AUD and may work with a therapist to learn coping strategies to minimize alcohol cravings and triggers.
  • While genetics play a significant role, Resurgence Behavioral Health emphasizes that environmental factors also contribute.
  • However, knowing your family history of addiction shouldn’t make you feel hopeless, as if you’re bound to the same fate.
  • NIAAA is committed to learning more about how genes affect AUD so that treatment—and prevention efforts—can continue to be developed and improved.

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