This is a chronic and progressive disease. A person suffering from alcoholism treasures alcohol and consumes it despite many repeated problems that are related to it. Such problems include job loss, relationship complications, and drunk driving. Primarily alcoholism involves the physical dependence as well as cultural, psychological, and genetic influences (2).
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It is characterized by alcohol cravings and the inability to stop consuming it. The physical dependence means that people experience negative symptoms when they are not drinking as well as tolerance towards alcohol, meaning the person feels good when drinking excessive alcohol amounts. Before engaging in recovery, alcoholics will always deny the fact that they really have a problem (2).
Alcoholism has become one confront that the society has failed to curb because unlike several other issues, it cannot be solved theoretically. Solving the alcoholism problem is not easy because alcohol’s addictive symptoms do not show by appearance but after it has done much, such as causing terminal Illnesses. However, by taking the initiative to check the warning signs that show the abuse as well as by taking precautions, one can curb these issues. Alcoholism is not one single crisis but it is a blend of interpersonal, physical, medical, and social effects, which exist at dissimilar times in different individuals in their life.
Alcoholism and Genetics
The ideology of alcoholism being a family issue/vice has been doing rounds for a long time. Notably, in the recent decades, thanks to science, this idea has been swapped from a mere folk-observation into a more systematic observation. Studies during the 1970s indicate that alcoholism actually does exist as a family affair, but does it take place simply because a child carbon copies becoming an alcoholic of his/her parents as well as the surrounding environment, the child can also inherit the particular genes that brings about the underlying predisposition to alcohol? Or is it both? These questions were not resolved by the studies (3).
Why should we carryout genetic research? Any discovery of specific genetic effects that lead to alcoholism development would prove beneficial for three reasons. The first reason, it would create path to the earmarking people who are at risk and can take action to counter the development of pro-alcohol issues. Secondly, it will enable us to understand the actual role of the environment in alcoholism development. Lastly, it may direct us to identify enhanced treatments, in line with our new comprehension about the physiological events of alcoholism (1).
Susceptibility to Alcoholism
Even though the bottom line here is to investigate how alcoholism can be genetically transmitted, a separate and different issue that is not addressed at in this case presents a possibility that vulnerability towards organ damage somehow falls within the genetic control arena. Researchers have investigated probable genetic components that lead to alcoholism by reviewing populace, families, neurobehavioral markers, hereditary, and biochemical features. The two principal methods of alcoholism inheritance include the research of twins as well as of adoptees (1).
The study of twins compares the occurrence of alcoholism between fraternal and identical. In case there exists any alcoholism genetic components between identical twins that obviously have matching genes, we would expect them to portray comparable alcoholism development histories. Since fraternal twins are two genetically diverse individuals who happen to be born at the same time, we would expect the alcoholism development histories to differ. Generally, researchers who applied this twin method found some reality in the above expectations (4).
Studies on pairs of twins, from both genders, of which one member of the pair had sought some alcoholism treatment, indicate that there exists greater concordance toward alcohol dependence between identical twins as compared to their fraternal twins’ counterparts. They as well found higher concordance towards alcoholism between identical female twins as compared to identical female twins (1).
Several other studies on twins have yielded comprehensive information e.g. Partanen in collaboration with co-workers studied Nine Hundred and two Finnish twins who are males, the finding was that lower severe alcoholism patterns were not highly heritable, and that more dangerous alcoholism patterns were highly heritable (1).
Some of the difficulties experienced when designing the twin studies are accounting for the unequal conditions around the environment. Earlier studies used to assume that the fraternal twins environment were similar to that of identical twins, its only later that studies indicated that identical twins environments are more similar as compared to those of fraternal twins. Such results from twin studies are helpful in that they have indicated some probability of genetic component during inheritance (1).
These studies employ several techniques. One of them is comparing the histories of children born by alcoholics and adopted by people who are not alcoholic, therefore raised in a non-alcohol setting; the history of nonalcoholic born children who are brought-up in an alcoholic environment is also considered. If at all the genetic factor actually plays some role, then we would expect the adopted children to develop their real parent’s alcoholism pattern (2).
Adoption studies are hindered by many problems such as, lack of clear data about the parents who offer their children for adoption, as well as environmental biases. A study undertaken by Goodwin and Co-workers on adopted children in Denmark gives evidence on the expected trend (2).
Cloninger and co-workers also performed deep studies into these studies and finally concluded the same (2). They hypothesized that the type-two alcoholics (known for early onset drinking problems) are usually males who display some personality disorders like antisocial behaviors (2).
Some researchers have also indicated that the whole speculation of inheritance and alcoholism is quite complex, and that the child only inherits a mix of his/her parents personality traits like antisocial behavior; their argument is that alcoholism itself is not inherited. Under this, genes may play more direct role as far as alcoholism development is concerned, that is by affecting ones body’s alcohol metabolism; or that the genes play a lower direct role by influencing personalities or personal temperament such that he/she becomes more vulnerable towards alcoholism (2).
The limited family study numbers that have taken place have developed different models about how alcoholism exists in family quarters. The explanation of such studies have been further obscured by the probability that the condition could be heterogeneous, meaning, a blend of diverse conditions which are quite familiar, though they may differ in terms of mechanisms and inheritance modes. Further studies could therefore be necessary to differentiate between the mechanisms and their transmission (4).
Studies on population and families such as the ones that have been cited above are efforts that attempt to create a broad influence towards alcoholism but from a genetic perspective. To identify specific genes, some researchers have embarked on marker studies, under which particular genes are in some way related to alcoholism, genes that lay closer to them i.e. the same chromosome may be acquired or present at birth when the alcoholism predisposition is being inherited (4).
Linkage is the word that is used to refer to this phenomenon. In addition, it consists of assorted genes, which are hypothesized in order to be connected to alcoholism; it is good to note that none of them has ever passed the rigorous linkage test (4)
A marker known as dopamine-D2-receptor has also been found to be more often in drunkards than in non-drunkards. During animal studies, this particular marker has been speculated to brain functions that relate to motivation, reward, and reinforcement (3).
Some researchers also believe that dopamine-D2 can modulate alcoholism’s severity, rather than act as the basic cause. Its association continues being a bit interesting, though it does not seem like it can be transferred in families such that it can be duped responsible for the vice of alcoholism; its role is yet to be established. (3)
To search and identify human genomes that are associated with the particular genes that are pro-alcoholism, examiners apply two investigational approaches. First, individual gene approach consists of hypothesizing the specific genes that are in one way or another related to alcoholism’s physiology, the genes are then individually tested for linkage. The second approach involves human genome scanning; this involves characterizing on a one on one basis, the person’s DNA and identifying genes that may relate to drunkenness (3).
Some researchers have embarked on using animal models in the quest to carry out the study of alcoholism and genes. Such models possess some upper hand as compared to human subjects because it creates room for researchers to study reasonable numbers and generation of more subjects; they can also plan informative mating, and can generally manipulate the surroundings thus making measurements that are arguably impossible for humans. The major disadvantage of involving animals in studying alcoholism is because most animal alcoholism models cover the larger alcoholism spectrum as in the case of human e.g. their behavior (5).
Nevertheless, researchers have gone ahead with studies on alcoholism behaviors in animals since they to some extent resemble those of human. They include preference for and consumption of alcohol, alcohol induced sedation, alcohol induced hypothermia et cetera (5).
Using powerful methods that are available for animals, researchers have been able to identify specific genes that are responsible for alcohol-related behaviors in the animals. Recently, there is a new development under which researchers are able to predict the human genome location; a similar gene that has been identified in a mouse provides a platform towards the advancement of the human study. The approach will equally help distinguish the animal behaviors that are already under study, consequently help them understand alcohol-related reactions in human (5).
Much progress has been achieved in the quest to understand the topic of genetic vulnerability towards alcoholism. For instance, we understand that this vulnerability can be attributed towards more than one gene. The remaining task is on identifying what these particular genes and finding out their particularity towards alcohol or simply define something that’s more general e.g. temperamental differences and personality differences that results to the increment of a particular individual’s vulnerability towards alcoholism.
We should also be in a position to identify how a person’s genes interact with the surrounding environment to influence his/her vulnerability towards alcoholism eventually. It is more probable that the immediate surrounding environment actually influences alcoholism than their genetic counterparts based on the current situation.
Success in the quest to uncover the particular genes that predispose one to alcoholism will definitely assist in identifying the likelihood of alcoholism development by identifying it in high-risk individuals; this will assist in the undertaking of necessary steps towards curbing alcoholism at the initial stages of its development. This is therefore an important area as far as research is concerned because it continues to yield some important solutions to the many queries about the causes of alcoholism as well as how this vice can be prevented or treated.