Recent research identifies a specific gene that can be linked to increased alcohol consumption in mice but, as the scientists themselves admit, substance abuse is a much more complex issue in human beings. The new study singled out a gene called Gabrb1 that proved to dictate behavior in mice related to their preferences between water and alcohol. While the research is a step forward in identifying the ways that genetics can play a role in alcoholism, there is no denying that substance abuse also involves a number of other factors as well, including the influence of environment and different biological issues.
Increased Consumption in Gene Mutation
According to research, when the identified gene Gabrb1 is faulty in lab miceit causes excessive drinking of alcohol. Normal mice when given the choice between water and a bottle of diluted alcohol tend to drink little or no alcohol. Mice in the study with the mutated gene Gabrb1, however, overwhelmingly chose alcohol over water when offered the same free choice. Those with the gene mutation consumed nearly 85% of their daily intake with the alcoholic drink. The results of the study prove that there is a definite link between this particular gene and increased alcohol consumption at least in controlled conditions using lab mice.
The work done in this study shows that there are certain genetic causes in alcohol abuse but it does not necessarily translate to human subjects. There is still much more research to be done to determine what the genetic influences are in alcoholism when it comes to human beings. Substance abuse is known to be a multi-faceted issue that can have a variety of different causes even in one individual. Genes are usually identified as one factor influencing alcohol consumption because addiction tends to run in families. Children with parents or grandparents who struggle with addiction are more likely to experience the same problems later in life. There are a number of other issues that can come into play, however, because of the complexity of addiction as an illness.
Other Factors Involved in Alcohol Abuse
Those working in this particular study received conclusive evidence for this gene’s influence on lab mice but they must continue their research in order to determine its effect on humans. When it comes to human beings, alcohol abuse can become a different issue because environmental factors come into play. The factors affecting a person’s vulnerability to addiction can include social and cultural factors and even biological issues such as mental illnesses like depression.
While there may not be one single gene that can result in addiction, the research regarding Gabrb1 can provide potential for creating new treatments for alcoholism. With specific gene mutations identified, researchers can start to develop better treatments that focus on the genetic influences involved in problems of substance abuse. It can be too difficult to predict which individuals are at risk for alcoholism based on genetics alone but it is an important factor that can become a key element in treating this complicated illness.
Cindy Nichols is an addiction recovery associate who specializes in alcohol detox at Recovery Now TV.