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Alcoholism Essay, Research Paper

Since ancient times, observers have noted that alcoholism is passed from one generation to the next. More recently, family studies have noted that first-degree relatives of alcoholics are seven times more likely to have alcoholism than first-degree relatives of non-alcoholics. An estimated 20-25% of sons and brothers of alcoholics become alcoholic, and 5% of the daughters and sisters. These observations raise the issue of nature versus nurture in the development of alcoholism. Does the higher risk of alcohol problems in relatives of alcoholics result from a common environment, or from shared genes? Most researchers believe the influences of both genes and environment combine to determine alcoholism risk.

Until recently, research on alcoholism in families has focused on environmental factors, such as how family members interact with one another or the influence of peer pressure on the development of drinking problems. Sociologists have focused on how economic status or availability and taxation of alcohol affect prevalence of drinking problems. Until recently, genetic analysis has been limited to disorders that were known to be primarily biologically based, such as sickle-cell disease and cystic fibrosis.

It has been nearly impossible to find genes for conditions such as alcoholism, which manifests differently among people and is caused by both environmental and genetic factors. Technological advances in the past several years, however, have allowed scientists to study these so-called “complex traits.” With these new methods, genes that lead to diabetes and asthma have been identified and there is optimism that similar approaches can now be applied to alcoholism and other addictions.

It is known, for example, that being able to drink more alcohol than others to begin with (high tolerance) increases a person’s risk for having an alcohol problem later. It could be that one or more genes influence this kind of tolerance. In addition, genetic approaches can help identify new, previously unappreciated, biological influences. Such findings could help develop new treatment strategies for alcoholism.

Aside from the fact that alcoholism runs in families, there is compelling evidence that alcoholism has a genetic component. For example, identical twins (who have exactly the same genes) are more likely to be similar in having alcohol problems than fraternal twins, who only share half of their genetic material. Likewise, when infant children of alcoholics are adopted by non-alcoholic parents they are still about three times more likely to have an alcohol problem, even though they were raised in a lower risk environment. Such findings suggest that about half the tendency to have an alcohol problem comes from environmental factors such as growing up in a particular family, and the other half results from genes.

Chronic drinking is associated with cardiovascular diseases such as cardiomyopathy, hypertension, arrhythmias and stroke, depresses the immune system and results in predisposition to infectious diseases including respiratory infections, pneumonia and tuberculosis

Alcohol interacts negatively with more than 150 medications. People taking large doses of acetaminophen and drinking alcohol are at risk for serious liver damage

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which may occur when pregnant women consume alcohol, is the leading known environmental cause of mental retardation in the Western World and results in 4,000 to 12,000 babies born each year with physical and intellectual disabilities.

Alcoholism is most of the time genetic, but I feel that you can resist alcohol if you really want. Alcoholism is a very bad thing to have. It can slowly kill your body and you don’t even know it. Most of the time people drink just to be cool like everyone else. I think that its no reason to drink especially with all the problems it could cause you. If most of these people out here look close behind the liquor as in research they would probly change their decisions on drinking


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