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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: Considerable evidence indicates most alcoholics inherit strong genetic propensities toward alcohol addiction.
Author: Fraser Trevor
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 Schuckit, M.,et. al.,(1972) studied 133 sons of alcoholics, adopted and raised by non-alcoholic parents. The 133 sons of alcoholics, raise...
 Schuckit, M.,et. al.,(1972) studied 133 sons of alcoholics, adopted and raised by non-alcoholic parents. The 133 sons of alcoholics, raised by non-alcoholic parents, were three times more likely to be alcoholic, than children of non-alcoholic parents. Abnormal electrical activity has also been found, in young sons of alcoholics. P300 brainwaves are frequently studied, in response to mild stimuli. P300 brain waves have been found to weaker or absent in alcoholics and their non-drinking children. Berman, et. al. (1993) reports P300 wave measurements predicted alcohol and drug use 4 years later, (at age 16) in a group of 36 preadolescent boys.Genetic differences also cause alcohol to affect alcoholics differently. Dopamine is possibly the world’s most addictive substance and makes cocaine and nicotine especially addictive. Dopamine creates pleasurable feelings and increases, during sex or when we “fall in love.” Alcohol temporarily elevates dopamine, but depressed dopamine levels occur during alcohol withdrawal. Blum, K et. al., (1996) researched genetics of the dopamine type 2 (D2) neurotransmitter receptor gene and found differences between alcoholics and non-alcoholics. Of 35 alcoholics studied, 69% had the A1 allele, while only 20 percent of 35 non-alcoholics had the A1 allele. These genetic variations determine the number of D2 neurotransmitter receptors.”I have never encountered a single patient who wants to be addicted. They are addicted at enormous personal and social cost, but something fundamental has changed in their brains so that the drives that normally motivate others are disrupted by the drugs,” said Nora D. Volkow, MD, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. . .Dr. Volkow described her study of 20 hospitalized cocaine abusers who showed markedly decreased reductions in dopamine D2 receptors, compared with 23 controls. The diminution of receptors was even apparent four months after cocaine discontinuation. These findings extended the results of other studies showing dopamine D2 receptor reductions in current cocaine abusers as well as studies showing reductions in D2 receptors in other addictions such as alcoholism, heroin, and methamphetamine. “This study documented for the first time the biochemical changes in the brain of addicted people, and showed that the reductions [in dopamine D2 receptors] are long-lasting,” she said. Addicts have fewer dopamine D2 receptors in several regions of their brains than do controls. . . Upon release, dopamine is almost immediately removed from the synapse by the dopamine transporter, and thus has a very limited opportunity to reach the receptor. Fewer receptors for the same amount of released dopamine means less “received” dopamine and consequently less dopamine signaling. . .Having more dopamine D2 receptors in the brain may confer protective benefit against vulnerability to addiction, Dr. Volkow noted. She and her colleagues have measured the number of dopamine D2 receptors in a group of non addicted subjects, then administered intravenous methylphenidate. The subjects who described their experience as pleasurable had significantly fewer dopamine D2 receptors than those who described it as non pleasurable. Liberating more dopamine triggered an aversive experience because it boosted dopamine levels “over the threshold of what would be considered reinforcing.” The experience was too intense and so unpleasant that these subjects refused to return for a follow-up study, Dr. Volkow reported.”Yasgur, B. The Neurologic roots of Addiction. NeuroPsychiatry Reviews. Vol. 5, No. 5; July 2004PET brain scans reveal chemical differences in the brain between addicts and non addicts.The normal images in the bottom row come from non-addicts; the abnormal images in the top row come from patients with addiction disorders. The PET scans from the cocaine abuser, the alcoholic, and the obese patient with food addiction show reduced levels of dopamine receptors (molecules that transmit pleasure signals in the brain). Low levels of dopamine receptors suggest an under stimulated biochemical “reward system” in the brain. The PET scan from the cigarette smoker with nicotine addiction shows lower levels of monoamine oxidase (MAO), a brain enzyme that regulates dopamine levels. BER researchers are investigating pharmaceutical therapies for curbing or curing addictive behaviors. Some alcoholics have higher levels of the alcohol dehydrogenase type II gene, providing them an increased ability to breakdown alcohol. This is also genetically determined. These individuals appear to comprise approximately 50% of the alcoholic population and can metabolize or breakdown alcohol about 40% faster than other alcoholics and non-alcoholics. Asians tend to have less of the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme which breaks down alcohol and tend to have intense anaphylactic allergic reactions from drinking alcohol similar to the reactions, which occur when people drink on antabuse. Asians experience a histamine flush, often accompanied by constriction of the bronchial tubes, intense discomfort and headaches. Consequently, the alcoholism rate is very low in the Asian population. In contrast, Native Americans have alcoholism rates, as high as, 80 percent. Native Americans have only had about 200 years of exposure to alcohol in some cases, with little opportunity for alcoholism to be bred out of their gene pool In contrast, some Mediterranean populations have had approximately 7000 years of exposure to alcohol and tend to have very low alcoholism rates whether they are Spanish, French, Italian, Greek, Turkish, Syrian, Lebanese, Israeli, Egyptian, Libyan, or Morroccan. This has more to do with genetics than religion, since religions represented around the Mediterranean include Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Hopefully, Native Americans will eventually breed alcoholism out of their gene pool, but till then, we need more effective treatments.The first step in alcohol breakdown in the body, is transformation to acetaldehyde, by the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme. Acetaldehyde is essentially a formaldehyde molecule with a methyl group (CH3) added, and is toxic to any tissue in the body. It obviously has a detrimental effect on the brain. Some alcoholics inherit levels of the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme, about 40 percent higher then the rest of the world, and break alcohol down to acetaldehyde, faster than other drinkers. Unfortunately their liver cannot break down the increased production of acetaldehyde any faster than other drinkers, and higher levels of acetaldehyde accumulate in their bodies.Part of the excess acetaldehyde accumulation, which is not broken down as rapidly as it is produced, combines with serotonin and dopamine, forming opiate-like molecules called tetrahydroisoquinolones, (THIQ). THIQ attaches to the mu opiate receptor. This individual, unlike other drinkers, becomes more intensely addicted to alcohol because THIQ’s opiate-like effects, reduce anxiety and pain. The resulting anxiety reduction perpetuates alcohol addiction. When this individual becomes sober, not only do they crave the opiate, they are also serotonin or dopamine depleted, which increases depression.Naltrexone is a prescription drug, used to saturate the opiate receptor. In approximately 50 percent of alcoholics, it has been found to reduce or eliminate alcohol cravings, although it is more commonly used to treat opiate addiction.
In view of these facts, it seems appropriate to view the alcoholic with compassion and not contempt. Unfortunately, much of the population does not understand these facts and still treats alcoholics contemptuously.
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