Experts from the University College London have found a rare gene that could increase a person’s risk of alcohol dependence, as well as manic depression and schizophrenia, a report on Medical Science Today said.
The researchers found that participants with a variant of the GRM3 gene, which plays a crucial role in brain signaling and is present in one in every 200 people, were two to three times more susceptible to alcoholism and schizophrenia. The gene was also found to increase a person’s risk of bipolar disorder by three-folds.
“Any developments related to treatment for these chronic illnesses stand to improve the lives of a considerable portion of the American population,” the report noted.
"The odds of this occurring by chance are only one in a billion," the study’s co-author Professor David Curtis said in the report.
The researchers published the findings, which involved an evaluation of 6,280 participants, in Psychiatric Genetics. The report noted that out of this number, 4,971 were discovered to be suffering from one of the three disorders. Their results were compared with the findings of 1,309 participants belonging to the control group.
Epidemiologic data suggest that 5.7 million Americans are afflicted with manic depression or bipolar disorder. Among countries, the United States ranks the highest in terms of lifetime rate of bipolar disorder, with a rate of 4.4 percent. Based on U.S. Census Bureau estimates, there are 3.4 million people in the U.S. are suffering from schizophrenia.
The same report showed that alcoholism affects 18 million Americans. Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed that 23.2 million individuals, or 9.4 percent of the U.S. population aged 12 and above, required treatment for drug and alcohol abuse in 2007.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recognizes the role of genetics in a person’s risk for developing alcoholism, but maintains that a number of factors come into play as well.
“Genetics certainly influence our likelihood of developing alcoholism, but the story isn’t so simple” the agency said in a report.
“Research shows that genes are responsible for about half of the risk for alcoholism. Therefore, genes alone do not determine whether someone will become an alcoholic. Environmental factors, as well as gene and environment interactions account for the remainder of the risk,” the NIAAA said.
The report added that not all genes increase a person’s risk of alcohol use disorders. Some genes also play a role in decreasing a person’s risks as well.
“For instance, some people of Asian descent carry a gene variant that alters their rate of alcohol metabolism, causing them to have symptoms like flushing, nausea, and rapid heartbeat when they drink. Many people who experience these effects avoid alcohol, which helps protect them from developing alcoholism,” the report said.
Addressing alcoholism head-on no doubt takes plenty of hard work and science. And blaming alcohol addiction on genetics alone will not solve the problem.
Experts say controlling substance and alcohol abuse should be a comprehensive approach that involves through continuous medical treatment and psycho-social coaching. One company that provides an innovative rehabilitation program incorporating these two factors is BioCorRx, Inc. (OTCQB: BICX).
BioCorRx, Inc. has developed a successful two-tier addiction treatment program called Start Fresh Program which involves the use of a naltrexone implant that effectively curbs the alcoholic’s physical cravings, and life coaching sessions to ensure a patient’s smooth recovery.
Naltrexone works by preventing alcohol from binding into the brain’s pleasure center, preventing the alcoholic to take pleasure from drinking and from experiencing cravings altogether. The life coaching session addresses the psychological and social aspect of the alcoholic’s recovery, allowing the patient to plan for a life free of substance abuse.
Over the past year, a number of addiction facilities across America have bought exclusive rights to distribute the Start Fresh Program in their states. This year, new clinics using the Start Fresh Program are scheduled to open in the states of Nevada and Ohio.