Influence of Genetic Background in Alcohol Dependency

Coma, brain damage, and death can occur if alcohol poisoning is not treated immediately. Alcohol use disorder is a broad diagnosis that encompasses several commonly used terms describing problems with drinking. It includes alcoholism, also called alcohol addiction, which is a long-lasting (chronic) condition characterized by a powerful, compulsive urge to drink alcohol and the inability to stop drinking after starting. In addition to alcoholism, alcohol use disorder includes alcohol abuse, which involves problem drinking without addiction. As the field of genomics is rapidly expanding, with advances in technology and decreases in costs, whole genome sequencing is expected to become feasible in the near future.

  • The drawback to this approach isthat linkage studies find broad regions of the genome, often containing manyhundreds of genes.
  • Furthermore, family studies can be more powerful than case–control studies if different variants (i.e., alleles) of the same gene affect a given trait in different families, because multiple families can show an effect of that gene despite not sharing the same alleles.
  • Conversely, patients with nuclear gene mutations commonly display slow progression, sometimes being totally asymptomatic, much like the patients included in this study.
  • With rapid advances over the past 10 years in technologies for discovering and analyzing the functions of genes, researchers are now increasingly able to get at the biological roots of complex disorders such as substance abuse and addiction.

Catalog of Genes and Diseases from OMIM

is alcoholism inherited

If your pattern of drinking results in repeated significant distress and problems functioning in your daily life, you likely have alcohol use disorder. However, even a mild disorder can escalate and lead to serious problems, so early treatment is important. Unhealthy alcohol Sober House use includes any alcohol use that puts your health or safety at risk or causes other alcohol-related problems. It also includes binge drinking — a pattern of drinking where a male has five or more drinks within two hours or a female has at least four drinks within two hours.

How much of addiction is genetic?

These groups typically have a lower risk of developing alcohol use disorder compared to other populations. The inclusion of data from different ancestral groups in this study cannot and should not be used to assign or categorize variable genetic risk for substance use disorder to specific populations. As genetic information is used to better understand human health and health inequities, expansive and inclusive data collection is essential. NIDA and other Institutes at NIH supported a recently released report on responsible use and interpretation of population-level genomic data, by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. In the study of complex disorders, it has become apparent that quitelarge sample sizes are critical if robust association results are to beidentified which replicate across studies. Meta-analyses, whichcombine results across a number of studies in order to attain the criticalsample sizes needed, are being developed.

Recent findings:

  • It is now appreciated that a whole spectrum of allele frequencies andeffect sizes may play roles, from common variations with small effects throughrare variants of large effect.
  • Some of these candidate genes encode components of various brain chemical systems that allow communication among nerve cells.
  • If you are living with alcohol use disorder, know that you are not alone and that there are treatment options.
  • It is pretty well understood that high-stress environments and trauma are linked to alcohol use disorder, so appropriate therapy to manage these mental and behavioral conditions is extremely important.

Current power and sample size estimates for GWAS with effect sizes of 1.05–1.2 range from 30,000 – 120,000 (Owen et al., 2010; Schizophrenia Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics, 2014). While the use of a stringent P-value for GWAS avoids the detection of false positive findings, it might also miss ‘true’ variants. Recent attempts to address this issue have used pathway analysis and polygenic risk score approaches (Gelernter et al., 2014) but have not been widely applied to AUD genetic analyses.


In addition, they allow analyses under standard diagnostic systems, such as the 4th edition of the DSM (DSM–IV) (APA 1994) and the 10th edition of the International Classification of Diseases and Related Problems (ICD–10) of the World Health Organization (WHO) (1992–1994). The idea is grounded in an assumption that endophenotypes can reveal the biological bases for a disorder better than behavioral symptoms because they represent a fundamental physical trait that is more closely tied to its source in a gene variant. Although this approach to studying complex behaviors was first proposed in the 1970s by psychiatric researchers investigating schizophrenia, it has recently proved even more valuable with modern tools for assessing biologic processes and analyzing genetic data.

is alcoholism inherited

Characteristics of the studied population

  • The incidence of alcoholism was slightly higher among people who were exposed to alcoholism only through their adoptive families.
  • Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) are using fruit flies to find the genetic causes of alcoholism.

But to scientists, that apparent heritability suggested that some genetic component underlying vulnerability to alcohol problems was being transmitted from generation to generation. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 5.6% of adults in the United States were living with alcohol use disorder in 2019. Behavioral treatments—also known as alcohol counseling, or talk therapy, and provided by licensed therapists—are aimed at changing drinking behavior. Examples of behavioral treatments are brief interventions and reinforcement approaches, treatments that build motivation and teach skills for coping and preventing a return to drinking, and mindfulness-based therapies.

Accumulating evidence indicates that variations in numerous other genes have smaller but measurable effects. The Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) is a large-scale family study designed to identify genes that affect the risk for alcoholism (i.e., alcohol dependence) and alcohol-related characteristics and behaviors (i.e., phenotypes1). This collaborative project is funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Data collection, analysis, and/or storage for this study take place at nine sites across the United States. Because alcoholism is a complex genetic disorder, the COGA researchers expected that multiple genes would contribute to the risk.

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