A group of 11 genes can successfully predict whether an individual is at increased risk of alcoholism, a research team from the United States and Germany reported last month. The study also mentions some of the 11 genes have been linked to bipolar and other disorders. It’s been my long held belief that there is a stronger link between bipolar and alcoholism than many alcoholics are willing to accept. It’s as if they believe the disease of alcoholism is in a vacuum, untouched by outside influences and that it can only be cured by following the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I have been sober for over 10 years and I’m grateful to A.A.. Following the 12 steps saved my life, however, I refuse to believe that all problems can be resolved only through them.
“This powerful panel of just 11 genes successfully identified who has problems with alcohol abuse and who does not in tests in three patient populations on two continents, in two ethnicities and in both genders,” said Alexander B. Niculescu III, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigators and associate professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience at the Indiana University School of Medicine.
“As alcoholism is a disease that does not exist if the exogenous agent (alcohol) is not consumed, the use of genetic information to inform lifestyle choices could be quite powerful,” the authors wrote
Can you imagine being able to identify alcoholism before a person ever takes a drink? The report, however, only refers to alcohol as the problem. I’m curious if further studies will be conducted on those who may never drink, but have other forms of addiction – examples would be overspending, sexual activity, exercising, and gambling etc. etc. Are these also related to the 11 genes identified?
“We believe this is the strongest result to date in the field of alcoholism and offers a comprehensive — though not exhaustive — window to the genetics and biology of alcoholism,” Dr. Niculescu said.
Dr. Niculescu, attending psychiatrist and research and development investigator at the Richard L. Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Indianapolis, cautioned that genetic tests indicate risk, not certainty, and that “genes act in the context of environment.”
The researchers then determined that the panel of 11 genes could be used to differentiate between alcoholics and non-alcoholics (controls) in three different research populations for which genetic data and information about alcohol consumption were available: a group of Caucasian subjects and a group of African American subjects from the U.S., and a third group from Germany.
Many of the 11 genes also have been implicated as associated with other neuropsychiatric disorders including cocaine addiction, Parkinson’s disease, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and anxiety — not too surprising given that basic brain biology is involved, and links between such diseases as alcoholism and bipolar disorder have been known clinically for many years, Dr. Niculescu said.
Clinically it may have been known for many years, but it seems like the information has not been revealed to the general population as well as it should. I think we have gone long past the point of educating people outside the medical field.
I’m excited these genes have been identified and that they can be helpful for determine the likelihood that someone is an alcoholic. Perhaps, someday, we may be able to do more than just identify them. Perhaps this research can lead to eradicating alcoholism. The study,in no way, makes such bold statement.
More information about this research can be found at Translational Psychiatry