Alcoholism & Genetics Essay

Alcoholism Genetics Essay

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Alcoholism and Genetics: Is Your Parent Responsible for Your Drinking? Has heavy drinking affected your family? If it has, you are not alone. Almost half of all adults in the United States (43%) have been directly affected by alcoholism or have a parent, sibling, child or spouse affected by alcoholism. Over 76 million people in this country are directly or indirectly affected by alcoholism, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Alcoholism, a pervasive public health problem whose cost is estimated at more than $150 million annually, has a strong tendency to run in families. Although it is common throughout the general public, brothers or sisters of an alcoholic are at three to eight times greater risk of alcoholism than a person who has no family history of the condition. The identical twin of an alcoholic has about sixty percent chance of also becoming an alcoholic. However not everyone from a high-risk family develops alcoholism. Even in high-density alcoholic families, not all children come out to be alcoholics, said Henri Begleiter, thirty to forty percent of these kids will end up developing the disease (qtd. in Okie 3). It is important we do genetic research on alcohol and genetics for three reasons. First, it leads to identification of people at risk, and could help inform people so they could act to avoid developing alcohol related problems. Secondly, it may help us to understand the environmental factors that play a part in developing alcoholism. Third, it may lead to new understanding and treatment that can help alcoholics to relieve their problems. There is no definite cause of alcoholism ;however, several factors may play a role in its development. The first is environment, and the second inherited factors. Researchers have found that environment does play an important role in the situation if the person does develop alcoholism or not. Some social factors include availability of alcohol, social acceptance of the use of alcohol, peer pressure, and stressful lifestyles. There are three main mechanisms by which persons may develop alcoholism. Genetic- biological mechanisms, alcohol-specific environmental mechanisms, and general environmental mechanisms. Genetic-biological mechanisms is when the child of the alcoholic develops alcoholism by the means that the genes were passed down through the family. Alcohol-specific environmental mechanisms is when the offspring learn to drink by watching and learning from their parents drinking throughout their life. Many times in which they think drinking is okay and will solve their problems. Finally, general environmental mechanisms is when the offspring learns to drink from outside of the family circle. They learn from outside sources such as their peer group or other family members (Velleman and Orford 56). What does the average person think? The researchers from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey, conducted telephone interviews with nearly one thousand US adults to reveal the answer to this question: We asked people...to choose which factors they felt were important in contributing to alcoholism said Dr. Paul Manowitz of The American Society of Human Genetics. We asked them to consider four factors, including the person s parents drinking habits when he or she was growing up, a currently unhappy home life, a person s biological makeup or genetics, and a bad work or job situation. Nearly 77 percent of the respondents state that genetics has a lot or some effect on the likelihood that someone will become an alcoholic (qtd. in Mulvihill, par. 5). Dr. Jeffery Long of the National Institutes of Health said, No single factor, whether it s genetics or environment, is sufficient to cause alcoholism. So we re looking for things that shift the balance. There is a growing supply of scientific evidence that alcoholism has a genetic component, but the actual gene that may cause it has yet to be positively identified. Little is known about the genes and factors determining what does get passed down and what does not, but what is known that in some ways genes are passed down through families. Alcoholism is multi-gene, it is not due to a mutation in a single-gene, said Dr. Enoch Gordis, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
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