Is there a gene for alcoholism? What are the mechanisms of alcohol addiction and on what factors is it dependent? Alcohol dependence is a complex disease that may predispose to many health problems and mental difficulties. Find out more in the article below.
How does alcohol addiction develop?
Understanding the mechanism of addiction is crucial to understanding the nature of alcoholism and how genetic factors may affect its development. Consuming ethyl alcohol, which has a strengthening effect, affects the reward system, and thus leads to a short-term feeling of pleasure and relaxation. As a result, the individual becomes mentally and physically addicted to the consumption of the psychoactive substance.
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A single consumption of alcohol can therefore contribute to the activation of the dopaminergic system and the release of endorphins and dopamine, which are responsible for the feeling of satisfaction and relief. It also acts directly on the functioning of the central nervous system, causing symptoms such as mood swings, movement and perception disorders of the surrounding reality, and moreover difficulties with abstract thinking.
Brain neuroplasticity is also of great importance for the development of alcohol dependence. It is based on the brain’s ability to adapt to the current situation and record new memory traces. Simply put, this means that the brain itself begins to associate alcohol with pleasure.
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Regular alcohol abuse causes the human body to tolerate it. As a result, an addicted person who ceases to supply the right amount of substances to the body experiences symptoms of withdrawal syndrome. She struggles with headache, nausea, muscle tremors, increased temperature and depressed mood. To avoid undesirable results, the only solution an alcoholic sees is to re-drink alcohol.
Numerous scientific studies on alcoholism indicate that 40-50% of its development is influenced by environmental factors, while 40-60% is due to genetic factors. This does not mean, however, that everyone with a particular gene will always develop an addiction to alcohol. Due to the fact that alcoholism has various origins, other factors play a significant role in the development of the disease.
One study conducted by a research team in the United States revealed 18 genetic variants associated with alcohol abuse. According to them, it turned out that addiction is conditioned by many genes, and not by one specific gene.
Other studies have identified the GABRG3 gene found in 10,000 samples of people with alcohol problems and / or their family members. This gene is responsible for inhibiting the activity of nerve cells and is also involved in the development of other disorders, including epilepsy. However, it has not been proven to what extent and how a given gene may influence addiction to a psychoactive substance.