Scientists have discovered 11 gene variations that could determine someone’s future risk of alcohol addiction. This discovery adds further proof to the idea that, to a certain extent, genetics plays a role in alcoholism.
Scientists were even able to use the new information to develop a genetic risk score based on how many of the 11 variations a person had. They found that people with more of the genetic risk factors were substantially more likely to be alcoholics.
While these genes do not mean that someone is bound to become an alcoholic, their presence should raise alarm bells. "Genes are not destiny, but knowing your genetic risk profile can empower you to make smart lifestyle choices," said study co-author Dr. Alexander Niculescu III, an associate professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience at Indiana University School of Medicine.
He said that one day children may be able to take a test to check for their genetic likelihood of developing alcohol addiction. Those with higher risk genetics would be able to avoid alcohol or at least understand the true risk of their drinking habits.
It is important to remember that even someone with all 11 genetic variations is not guaranteed to become an alcoholic if they drink. The US national Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism believes that genetics only plays a 50% role in alcohol addiction. The other 50% of the risk comes from a person’s environment. A good example involves parents drinking habits. Children are more likely to drink if they see their parents regularly engaging in the activity.
Currently the research is still in its initial stages. It will take a lot more work before scientists fully understand how the genetic variations actually affect alcohol addiction. Only then will they be able to test for such things.
The researchers say their next move will be to use what they have learned to develop new drugs to help fight alcohol abuse.
To learn more about alcohol addiction, check out the Life Works Alcohol Knowledge Centre.