How much is alcoholism a genetic disease? Most people know situations where alcoholism seems to "run in the family." But how much does the science back it up? Research hasn't made a definitive conclusion, but new studies indicate that there may be a genetic factor for responding to medication designed to treat alcoholism.
Topiramate: a New Wonder-Drug for Treating Alcoholism?
Henry R. Kranzler, MD, recently ran a study on the medication topiramate, which is traditionally prescribed as an anticonvulsant. But when taken by heavy drinkers, the medication has showed some promising results-enough to earn Dr. Kranzler the prestigious Dan Anderson Research Award from Hazelden Betty Ford.
What Are the Genetic Factors for Topiramat-Based Alcoholism Treatment?
One interesting finding of Dr. Kranzler's paper was that one patient group with a certain gene form had particularly successful treatment for alcohol dependence when using topiramate. This points toward genetic-based treatment options for treating addiction.
Imagine being able to select a treatment option or medication that fits your genetic makeup the best. You could play to your strengths when fighting to overcome drug addiction or alcoholism. Research shows that there may be some significant genetic components linked to alcoholism or drug addiction, so why wouldn't there be genes that could help you beat these diseases?
What General Effects on Alcoholism Did the Research Show?
The two main effects that topiramate showed for heavy drinkers were:
- An increase in abstinent days
- A corresponding decrease in heavy-drinking days
The study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, entitled "Topiramate Treatment for Heavy Drinkers: Moderation by a GRIK1 Polymorphism." The professor at Yale who nominated Dr. Kranzler for the award said that "this is likely to be one of Dr. Kranzler’s most influential papers, bringing together a treatment trial of an important medication in the treatment of hazardous drinking with a genetic predictor that may be expected to bring alcohol dependence treatment into the new and expanding realm of personalized medicine."
Alcoholism has wrecked havoc on families, whether it’s close or distant relatives. Hopefully, families devastated by multi-generational drinking may now find help through this medication or similar ones in the future.