The Science Journal of the Lander College of Arts and Sciences


This paper reviews studies done on the correlation of alcoholism and genetics. Evidence of this correlation can be seen in high heritability of alcoholism. The main methods used in determining genetic risk factors are candidate gene studies and genome wide studies. This review focuses mainly on findings related to specific neurotransmitters and receptors in relation to alcoholism. Evidence has shown that specific neurotransmitters and receptors can play a role in increased susceptibility to alcoholism. The neurotransmitters and receptors discussed in this paper include GABA, glutamate, and endogenous opioids. There is also a discussion focused on mutations of specific enzymes (ADH and ALDH) used to metabolize alcohol and its possible effects on developing alcoholism. When applicable, findings include a potential pharmacological treatment targeting the possible causation for alcoholism. Results from the studies conducted by the Collaborative Studies on Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) have been discussed as well. COGA findings include specific chromosomes and their relationships with alcoholism, namely 1, 4 , 7, 11, and a possible indicator for increased susceptibility, or level of response (LR). The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that alcohol results in 2.5 million deaths each year and in 9% of all deaths between the ages of 15 and 29. The WHO further concludes that alcohol is the world’s third largest risk factor for disease burden; it is the leading risk factor in the Western Pacific and the Americas, and the second largest in Europe (World Health Organization 2011). An American survey by Hasin and colleagues (2007) concludes that alcoholism affects 4-5 % of the population at any given time. As a result of these widespread ramifications, alcoholism has been a subject of much research. This paper will primarily deal with the studies of genetic influences that affect alcoholism risk. Locating a genetic link can lead to possible alcoholism prevention of those genetically susceptible and help better treat those who have already developed the problem.