Alcholism could be genetic: Scientists find 29 ‘genetic risk factors’ which are linked to ‘problematic alcohol use’
- Genes were identified after analysing genetic information of 435,000 people
- Problem drinkers in the sample were shown to share 29 different genes
- Alcoholics are defined as people that drink more than 14 units every week
Alcoholism could be cause, at least in part, by a person’s genetics, a study has found.
Scientists at Yale University studied the genes of 435,000 Europeans and identified 29 gene variants common in problem drinkers.
The find triples the number of known ‘genetic risk factors’ for alcoholic dependency.
The study also found that the alcohol related genes were are highly likely to be passed on to the next generation, which the scientists say demonstrates their ‘importance in biological function’.
Scientists at Yale University identified the shared genes after analysing the DNA of more than 435,000 people (stock photo)
Geneticists scrutinised the DNA of people who report drinking more than 14 units a week, considered to be alcohol abuse.
They were looking for chunks of DNA which were found in a large proportion of the study participants.
They then investigated how these genes may influence others through a technique called Mendelian randomisation.
‘This gives us ways to understand causal relations between problematic alcohol use traits such as psychiatric states, risk-taking behaviour and cognitive performance,’ said Hang Zhou, associate research scientist in psychiatry and lead author of the study.
‘With these results, we are also in a better position to evaluate individual-level risk for problematic alcohol use.’
Genes were also studied to identify whether alcoholics were predisposed to other conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
Previous studies have suggested some people turn to alcohol as it triggers a pleasurable feeling in the brain, encouraging them to repeat the behaviour
It has also been shown that certain chemicals produced in the brain can make people more susceptible to drinking.
However, environmental and social factors have also been linked to the disease. Studies have suggested that those living near pubs and bars tend to have a more positive view on drinking, while advertisements, income and family life can affect how much alcohol a person consumes.
The genes used in the Yale study were taken from biobanks or datasets storing information on people of European Ancestry.
The results of the study were published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
WHAT IS ALCOHOLISM AND HOW IS IT TREATED IN THE UK?
Alcoholism is the most severe form of alcohol abuse and involves the inability to manage drinking habits.
It is organised into three categories: mild, moderate and severe. Each category has various symptoms and can cause harmful side effects.
If left untreated, any type of alcohol abuse can spiral out of control.
Individuals struggling with alcoholism often feel as though they cannot function normally without alcohol.
This can lead to a wide range of issues and impact professional goals, personal matters, relationships and overall health.
Sometimes the warning signs of alcohol abuse are very noticeable. Other times, they can take longer to surface.
When alcohol addiction is discovered in its early stages, the chance for a successful recovery increases significantly.
Common signs of alcoholism include:
- Being unable to control alcohol consumption
- Craving alcohol when you’re not drinking
- Putting alcohol above personal responsibilities
- Feeling the need to keep drinking more
- Spending a substantial amount of money on alcohol
- Behaving differently after drinking
Short-term effects of alcohol abuse can be just as dangerous as long-term effects.
For instance, drinking can impact your reaction time, causing you to have slow reflexes and coordination.
That’s why drinking and driving is extremely dangerous. Getting behind the wheel of a car can alter your perception of speed and distance, putting yourself and others at risk.
Several short-term effects of alcohol abuse may produce:
- Slow reaction time
- Poor reflexes
- Reduce brain activity
- Lowered inhibitions
- Blurry vision
- Difficulty breathing
Additionally, consuming too much alcohol can affect your long-term health. Some side effects may lay dormant for years before they surface.
Because of this, professional medical care is required for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Long-term health conditions caused by alcohol:
- Brain defects
- Liver disease
- Diabetes complications
- Heart problems
- Increased risk of cancer
- Vision damage
- Bone loss
Treatment for Alcoholism
There are different forms of treatment available based on frequency and severity of alcohol abuse.
Recovering from alcohol addiction is a process that continues long after rehab.
It takes commitment to practice and apply the techniques you learn in rehab, counseling, support groups and other types of therapy.
Although every individual will have their own recovery plan that’s tailored to their specific needs, treatment generally follows a structure.
Alcohol treatment is broken into three sections, consisting of:
The first stage in alcohol addiction recovery is detoxification. This phase should be completed with the help of medical professionals due to the potential for serious, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Many times, individuals are given a medication to help alleviate the painful side effects of a withdrawal.
There are two types of rehabilitation that help treat alcoholism: inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab. Inpatient rehabs are intensive treatment programs that require you to check into a facility for a certain period of time, usually 30, 60 or 90 days. Outpatient rehab allows individuals to participate in a recovery program while continuing with their daily life. Talk with your doctor about treatment options to determine which form of recovery will best fit your needs.
The recovery process doesn’t end with the completion of rehab. Long-term sobriety requires ongoing therapy and may entail support groups, counseling and other recovery resources. These will make sure you maintain sobriety and continue on a happy, healthy path for months and years to come.
Source: Alcohol Rehab Guide
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