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Genetics Sway Alcoholic Dependency

New research from the University of Virginia Health System could help explain why some alcoholics are more severe drinkers than others. The answer appears to be related to genetics as researchers found strong evidence that the serotonin transporter gene, SLC6A4, plays a significant role in influencing drinking intensity among alcohol-dependent individuals. The study, published in the February 2009 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, analyzed the associations between six different DNA sequence variations, or single nucleotide polymorphisms, of the serotonin transporter gene with the levels of drinking intensity among 275 alcohol-dependent individuals seeking treatment. Drinking intensity is measured by the amount a person consumes each day he or she drinks. “Of the six variants examined in the study, we found that one variant at the 3′ end of the gene showed a significant association with drinking intensity,” says study co-author Ming D. Li, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences in the UVA School of Medicine. “Specifically, we found that individuals with the ‘G’ allele of this variant drink less than individuals with the ‘T’ allele.” Previous studies have shown that the neurochemical serotonin mediates the rewarding effects of alcohol and, therefore, may be a key contributor leading to alcohol abuse. Studies also show that the brain’s serotonin system plays an important role in alcohol preference and consumption. “Acute drinking increases serotonin release and signaling in brain regions involved in controlling consumption of alcohol,” explains study co-author Professor Bankole Johnson. “But chronic drinking reduces serotonergic function, leading to a serotonin-deficient state. One hypothesis is that alcoholics drink to alleviate this serotonin-deficient state. “But it’s important to remember that alcoholics differ significantly in their drinking patterns, social backgrounds and disease etiology,” says Johnson. “All of these factors may affect both treatment outcomes and medical complications resulting from heavy drinking.” One of the main goals of treatment, Johnson points out, is to reduce the intensity of drinking. “A known genetic marker could be used to sub-type alcoholics and better determine treatment methods that can target specific underlying molecular mechanisms. We hope to determine whether this particular genetic variant can be used as a marker to predict treatment outcomes for different serotonin agents,” says Johnson. Source: University of Virginia Health System

Genetics Sway Alcoholic Dependency

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Genetics Sway Alcoholic Dependency. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/02/05/genetics-sway-alcoholic-dependency/3937.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.