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Discussing alcohol– Part 4: Genes and compulsive drinking

Discussing alcohol– Part 4: Genes and compulsive drinking

March 20 | By Rachael

Better understanding of genetics has given a boost to the medicine and biotechnology sector. From toying with stem grafts to discovering specific genes associated with heart diseases, the impact of genetics is indispensable for the understanding of laws that govern the human body.

In a study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in November 2016, researchers found a gene that played an important role in making alcohol irresistible to some people.

As part of the study, when a gene called beta-Klothowas removed from the mice,they seemed to like alcohol more and preferred to drink more alcohol than normal mice. The researchers hope to use this finding to come up with better treatment for alcoholism, a major health concernin the United States.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects about 17 million American adults (7.2 percent)in the U.S. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 140 million Americans drink alcohol with about 23 percent being binge drinkers, i.e. four to five drinks in a row for most people.

A 2015 study, funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), discovered a gene variant that affects the release of a specific brain protein that may increase the risks for alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Scientists discovered that mice carrying the Met68BDNF gene variant responsible for reducing the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) continued to consume excessive levels of alcohol regardless of its negative consequences. The BDNF is associated with the survival of existing neurons and the growth of new neurons and synapses through which cell-to-cell communication is relayed. Its counterpart in the human genome, Met66BDNF similarly reduces the function of BDNF in the brain and is closely linked with various psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and depression.

Researchers tested the role of Met68BDNF by introducing mice with and without the gene variant. It was observed that the mice with the gene variant drank more alcohol even in the presence of bitter-tasting quinine as compared to mice without the gene variant.

Other factors too responsible for alcoholism

Genes are not the only reasons behind alcoholism. Other factors too play a role. Some of them are environment, social situations, friends and peers, family members and availability and access to alcohol.A person who regularly drinks can gradually become physically dependent on alcohol. The dopamine levels in the brain increase with alcohol consumption that may cause drinking to be more pleasurable. This dependence gradually turns into tolerance when the person would need anincreased amount of alcohol.

Alcohol consumption even in moderate amount can lead to various side effects and can impact systems and functions of the body. Alcoholism can cause liver damage, lower mental or physical function, hypertension and cancer of various types. One must realize that alcohol does more harm than good. Apart from these problems, it can even affect our relationships and bring in financial problems.

Taking first step towards sobriety

If you or a loved one is struggling to overcome alcohol abuse, it is imperative that you seek professional help. Frequent consumption of alcohol can rewire the brain and give rise to problems of memory loss, cognitive impairment and mood swings. It can also lead to fluctuation in one’s appetite, problems at work and losing interests in things that were once pleasurable. Contact the Colorado Alcohol Addiction Help for the best evidence-based treatment plans.

Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-592-9261 to avail the best alcohol treatment in Colorado. You can also chat online with our medical representatives to know more about alcohol addiction treatment in Colorado. 

Read other articles of the series, “Discussing alcohol:”

Part 1: Drinking in college

Part 2: Alcohol-medication interplay can be risky for older adults

Part 3: Effects of alcohol on various body parts