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Binge drinking can activate changes in an individual’s genes making them crave more alcohol, found a recent study conducted by the researchers at the Rutgers University. This study adds to the already existing evidence that abusing alcohol or drugs induces genetic changes thereby reiterating the fact that addiction can be passed down to generations.
According to this study, the genes responsible for regulating drinking behavior in people, act differently especially in the case of individuals who drink heavily. The genes which act differently include methylation of period 2 (PER2) and proopiomelanocortin (POMC). The PER2 gene is responsible for influencing the biological clock of the human body, whereas the POMC gene produces proteins at a relatively lower rate thereby displaying reduced gene expression.
As an outcome, people develop a greater craving for alcohol and tend to indulge more in binge drinking. According to co-author Dipak Sarkar, director of the endocrine program, even if an individual who drinks wants to cease drinking, it becomes difficult for them because of the genetic changes that take place in their bodies. These make them more susceptible to drinking.
Genetic consequences of using drugs and alcohol greater than those of pregnancy
The findings of this study encourage the fact that the genetic consequences of using alcohol or drugs are much larger as compared to stages of pregnancy or conception. According to the researchers, even when adolescents drink or use drugs, it can create lasting genetic changes in their bodies that would impact their future generations.
Bill Jangro, medical director, substance-abuse programs division, Thomas Jefferson Hospital, Philadelphia, found it quite interesting that stressors such as drugs are capable of creating such genetic changes in the human body. Surprisingly, even alcohol, considered a low risk substance, has this kind of genetic impact on the human body.
However, Jangro added that presently, the consequences of this genetic change is not known completely. That’s the reason why researchers involved in the field of epigenetics are keenly seeking answers to a lot of unknown factors pertaining to the said genetic changes.
Once these answers to the unknown factors are found, it could completely change the way people think about addiction. It can even suggest alternative means of treating any kind of substance use disorders (SUD) at a genetic level. The basic concept of genetic change revolves around evolution. Genes that are responsible for promoting survival continue to be passed on for generations while others die out. This process may be carried out across hundreds of thousands of years.
Alcohol influences methylation process
Alcohol consumption influences the methylation process. The methylation process keeps the DNA sequence intact. However, it utilizes a chemical tag to either turn on or off certain genes in the human body. The methylation process is one of the ways in which environmental stressors can lead to genetic changes. Environmental stressors (from alcohol or drugs) can cause physical and emotional stress in the human body.
Epigenetics emphasizes on how various environmental factors can cause immediate changes in an individual’s lifespan and get transferred to the following generation. In this study, the researchers observed that the more an individual drank, the more genetic changes were found to take place in them.
Different substances can cause DNA methylation on different types of genes
According to some previously carried out research, different types of substances can cause DNA methylation on different genes in the human body. For instance, some opioid-related studies have revealed that methylation of the OPRM-1 gene builds a tolerance to opioids. That is why people who abuse opioids usually crave for more.
Even though addiction may run in families, a DNA analysis cannot determine if an individual is more susceptible to abusing drugs in the future. Sarkar stated that if changes in DNA methylation lead someone to get addicted, it makes more sense to identify such individuals and create early means of interventions. This would bring down cases of relapse and curb the process that creates cravings.
Seeking help for alcoholism
Alcohol, like any other substance, can lead to severe short- and long-term physical, mental, and social consequences. Irrespective of gender, age, or social standing, anyone can suffer from alcohol addiction. People battling with an addiction to alcohol can seek relief from their symptoms only by undergoing an alcohol addiction treatment program at a reliable alcohol addiction treatment center.
In case you or a loved one is looking for reliable alcohol addiction treatment, contact the Hillside Mission. The first step in any addiction treatment is detox. Our state-of-the-art detox treatment center is known for offering specialized detox programs, customized to suit individual requirements so that the treatment cycle can be shortened. Call our 24/7 alcohol abuse treatment helpline 866-225-6101 or chat online with our experts to learn more about the alcohol detox treatment programs offered at our facility.