Does Genetics Influence Alcoholism?

If one parent in a certain family is alcoholic, it stands to reason that one or more of the children may follow in that parent’s footsteps. The question is: does genetics really play a role in alcoholism?

According to the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, there might be a link. Their study showed that genetic factors indeed affect how people perceive and taste alcohol, which then influence whether an individual will prefer consuming alcoholic beverages. This is due to two specific bitter-taste receptor genes and a single burn receptor gene, which affect how “bitter” a substance tastes like to a person. Researchers subsequently found out that this “bitterness” varies from person to person, with lower bitterness leading to liking and vice versa.

Another study, this time by a team from the University of Colorado-Denver, has linked drinking behavior and the “pleasure and reward” pathways in the brain, as well as several systems which control food intake. In addition, the researchers also suggested that different genetic factors can predispose someone to alcohol dependence versus consumption—which means that although people may be predisposed to drinking moderately, they could still be susceptible to losing control.

As far as various current studies go, however, there still is no definite connection between alcoholic addiction and genetics; at least not yet. In time, there may be a breakthrough, but by then, alcoholism treatment will have undergone various changes for the better.

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