Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Genetic Linkage to Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms


   It has previously been established that there is a genetic linkage between our genes and the tendency to consume alcohol, but in this genome-wide study, researchers have linked genetics to the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This is a relevant research area given that nearly 16 million Americans are affected by some kind of alcohol disorder. Alcohol acts as a depressant to our central nervous system, and when an addiction is formed our brain gets used to constantly working harder to be more alert. Many people that try to break their alcohol addiction suffer from withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, shaky hands, nausea, and vomiting. Previously it was thought that the level of drinking and the duration of the addiction were large factors on the severity of the withdrawal symptoms, but this study now reveals a genetic link to the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

     The study was a genome-wide association study, which analyzes complete DNA sets across various populations. Specifically, the study found that variations in SORCS2 gene were highly linked to severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The reasoning behind this is that variations in the SORCS2 disrupt stress-related mechanisms in the hippocampus of the brain. This means when this variation is active, the central nervous system is hindered and unable to adjust to the sudden cessation of alcohol intake. Another interesting finding from the study was that those of African-American heritage do not appear to carry the gene variant, whereas as many as 1 in 10 Americans of European descent carries the variation in this gene.

     As unfortunate as it is, alcoholism is a very prevalent problem in our society that often becomes worse over time and sometimes is left untreated due to the social acceptance of drinking in public places. It is promising to see some research going into an area that could potentially improve the treatment of those suffering from an alcohol-related disease. It is also curious to wonder whether this same gene has any effect on the severity of withdrawal symptoms from other drug addictions to depressants, or if it solely specific to withdrawal from alcohol. I am also curious about the correlation they found between race and the ability to having this variation in the gene. As with any genetic linkage, this also opens the possibility for new genetic-based therapies and the hope that possibly using personalized therapies based on genetics can vastly improve the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

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  1. This article seems really interesting. I know a lot of people do not believe that addiction is a disease, and believe it is a choice instead. This study could really help change people's minds about addiction and open up their eyes a little bit. It could also help those suffering form alcohol addiction get the help and treatment they need to start the road to recovery.

  2. I also thought that this article was really interesting because I've heard about there being a genetic factor for alcohol consumption, but I never knew the specific details. This study has the potential to increase understanding and awareness about alcoholism. This also could help the people who are affected by it by creating an understanding and supportive foundation for them. As you said, this could also lead to different approaches to therapy due to this discovery, which would create personalized types of therapy that would increase an affected person's chance of recovery.