Scientists have long held that there is a genetic predisposition element to both alcohol use disorder (AUD) and substance use disorder (SUD). This essentially means that some men and women have a higher risk of developing a problem before they ever take the first drink or drug. Why that is the case is the focus of several researchers around the world.
Most people begin experimenting with mind-altering substances when they are in high school. Some teens first try cigarettes, alcohol, or marijuana at home with parents who take a liberal stance on substance use. Others are introduced to them by friends, either at parties or otherwise.
While the majority of teenagers will never experience issues with addiction, a statistically significant population will struggle. A salient course of study is to determine why some young people will develop the disease when others do not. Scientific findings may one day help guide prevention efforts and lead to more effective psychotherapies.
In previous posts, we have pointed out that alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States. The legal status of alcohol use makes it socially acceptable for adults to imbibe, even when doing so in excess. The permissibility of beer, liquor, and wine contributes to some people’s decision to continue using despite it causing problems in their lives. As a result, more than 80,000 Americans succumb to alcohol-related illness each year.
Fortunately, there is recourse for men and women who develop the disease of addiction. It is possible to seek help and go on to lead a productive life in recovery. Still, prevention efforts and treatments will likely always have room for improvement. Forming a clearer understanding of the mechanisms of use disorder is vitally important.
Colorado Researchers Study the Genetics of Alcohol Use Disorder
Current understanding of addiction holds that genetics and environment play a role in who develops an alcohol use disorder. Myriad factors influence one’s susceptibility to the disease. However, two children from the same home can follow nearly identical trajectories through life, but only one might develop a problem in adulthood.
Human biology is exceedingly complex, and far from being completely understood. Researchers have come a long way in recent years in determining the underpinnings of addiction, but they still have many questions that must be answered. Dr. Richard Radcliffe, a professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, is hoping to answer some of the essential questions.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is funding Dr. Radcliffe’s research that involves animal models and alcohol, The Colorado Sun reports. His goal to help find more effective medications for treating alcohol use disorder.
In the lab, Radcliffe gives alcohol to selectively bred mice and watches how they respond. He observes that some will run around in an excited state, whereas others remain sedentary—ostensibly in discomfort. The professor compares these two scenarios to teens drinking for the first time at parties; some will dance the night away, while others hope never to feel drunk again. He queries, “Who do you think is going to have a problem later in life?”
If Radcliffe can determine what causes the brain to experience alcohol differently, then it could lead to more effective medications and psychotherapy for alcohol use disorder. Moreover, it’s possible that existing medicines for other illnesses could prove useful for treating alcohol addiction.
Colorado Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment
Please contact NorthStar Transitions if you or a family member is battling alcohol or substance use disorder. NST is a licensed and Joint Commission-accredited facility that offers a robust continuum of care for drug and alcohol use disorders.
Our team of dedicated addiction professionals utilizes research-based modalities and behavioral therapies, along with customized treatment programs for each client. We believe that truly individualized care is vital to achieving positive treatment outcomes. We are available at any time to answer questions you have about the NorthStar difference. 303.558.6400