|Am I an Alcoholic?
Would a test that can predict alcoholism and relapse tendencies prevent youngsters from trying out drinking? There have been numerous studies conducted on the genetic predisposition toward alcoholism – most of which say that if one of your parents is an alcoholic, you may become one, if both parents and most of your lineage are alcoholics, you will probably become one. Despite this knowledge, people at risk still chose to try out drinking – walk into any 12 step meeting and you will hear variations on the same theme, “both of my parents were alcoholics” which suggests learned behavior and nurture vs. nature, but another common story is “both of my parents met in AA and were sober my whole life” which speaks to the natural genetic predispositon vs. nurture.
Despite the self-knowledge of a potential genetic predisposition, many still test the waters, but some think this may change if a test showed those at risk hard evidence. An article published this week in Nature Neuroscience showed that a behavioral test may be able to do just that – give hard evidence on who may have trouble with alcoholism and chronic relapse. Jane Taylor, a professor at Yale School of Medicine says, “What is encouraging about this study is that we have identified both a behavioral indicator and a molecule that explains that risk.”
The behavioral indicator showed that the same mice who reacted to a certain food cue also exhibited alcoholic tendencies. The Yale researchers also found that the mice that showed alcoholic tendencies had greater brain plasticity as measured by levels of the molecule PSA-NCAM. Mice with low levels of this molecule had less of an ability to control their alcohol seeking behavior whereas those with greater PSA-NCAM were more flexible in their behaviors around rewards. “This would make sense since alcoholism is associated with a lack of neurobiological and behavioral plasticity,” Taylor says. “The brains of alcoholics seem to get stuck in the same patterns of activity.”
If the testing of PSA-NCAM becomes available to the public, it would be interesting to see if it would serve as real prevention tool for those who know they have less ability to control their alcohol consumption and more of a likelihood of relapsing even if they did stop. So far, the self-knowledge that one may have a genetic pre-disposition prevents some from testing the assumption, but not all.
If you or a loved one suffers from alcoholism or relapse, our Colorado alcohol treatment program and relapse program can help.