.. uggests that DZ twins, which are similar but not identical in terms of genotype, respond quite differently. Parents and their children are even more genetically different that non-identical siblings, so it seems that a child would have a significantly different beta-endorphin response from its parent. The whole basis for the conclusion that risk for alcoholism is genetic is that DZ twins are not as similar in their response as are MZ twins. This demonstrates that parental alcoholism does not necessarily translate into similar risk of alcoholism in the child.
A parent and child are not identical in their genome. The second study suggests that the COMT gene, which is involved in dopamine metabolism, might be responsible for the drinking habits of not just alcoholics, but even social drinkers. One unique thing about this study is that it does not deal with a disorder or abnormality. It deals simply with whether the subject is homozygous for the low activity COMT, then dopamine is processed less quickly, which makes the high associated with alcohol consumption more distinct and longer. The authors suggest that the observed differences in consumption could be caused by another gene or group of genes that are located near the COMT gene.
The interactions of theses genes could cause higher alcohol consumption, and not simply low activity COMT genes. The subjects of this study were not addicted to alcohol, and so, by definition, when and how much they decided to drink was a matter of personal choice. Therefore, if the study is to suggest that the COMT gene influences the choices and conscious thoughts that people have, we must be extremely cautious. A conscious decision, as the social drinker makes, is a very complex process that is difficult to attribute to genetics. The fourth study which was the one that dealt with the alcohol dehydrogenase genes, deals with the findings of previous studies that the ADH3 gene and its varieties are associated with a deterrence to alcohol.
This is because they are observed in higher frequencies among controls than alcoholics. The findings of this study are similar to those of previous studies in terms of data, but the interpretation is different due to differences in the statistical work, as well as more informed knowledge about the actual chromosomal location of the involved genes. The study suggests that all the ADH genes are located close to each other on one arm of chromosome 4, and so they are inherited in suite rather than individually. This shows that many studies oversimplify genetic causation. Previous studies had returned certain results because they failed to understand the way in which the genes they studied were inherited, and how they interact with other genes. This shows how lack of complete information and differences in statistical work can change the results of the study.
The next study differs in that it deals with rats instead of humans, but there is a very important point that can be made through its findings. The study administered alcohol and cineole to certain rats through their mothers to see if they would react differently after birth to the two substances than do the controls. The observation was that the rats that were given both alcohol and cineole did indeed form an association between the two, and that they reacted differently both to their mothers, cineole, and suckling than did the controls. This supports the hypothesis that rats can form associations based on substances, specifically alcohol, in a prenatal environment. These associations affect how the animals react to the chemicals, and to their mothers, after birth. A point that can be taken from the findings of these studies is that a fetus may learn associations with alcohol that carry over into the postnatal world. The implications of this are large.
If rats are capable of such learning, then humans probably are. The alcohol level in the mother was observed to be nearly the same as that in the fetus. This means that if a mother drinks during pregnancy, apart from the know dangers of this, the child can make associations based on the alcohol that will carry over into how the organism reacts to alcohol later in life. The last two studies deal not specifically with genetics, but with childhood and parental behavioral problems that correlate with alcoholism. The first of these deals with Japanese prisoners, a large percentage of whom are alcoholic Whatever the cause for behavioral problems, they seem to have influenced alcohol use, and reactions to it, more than risk factor.
This study is important to an understanding of the genetics of alcoholism risk because it shows that alcoholism can be influenced, if not caused, by separate factor that is either learned or inherited from the parents. The final study examined in this paper deals with severe conduct disorder among children of alcoholic Native-Americans. Most of the children of alcoholics (COAs) displayed behavioral disorders, whether internal or external. This study is quite questionable, however. First of all, the sample size was quite small, with only 96 children used in the study. This means that the claim that only 7% of children had no alcoholic relatives works out to 6.72% kids.
The results would have certainly been much different given a larger sample size. Furthermore, the way in which the subjects were found could have influenced the outcome of the study. Subjects were gathered on a voluntary basis based on response to fliers placed in various public locations. It does not seem very likely that people would have volunteered their time to go to the research center and fill out lengthy questionnaires unless there was some reward involved, such as a per-dium. It is quite possible that people exaggerated their reports of family alcoholism because they felt they were being paid for this information.
It is also entirely possible that these people, mostly mothers, would have been reluctant to provide details about their own, and their family’s alcohol problems. Therefore the reports of alcoholism could also have been deflated substantially. This study illustrates how problems with the methods can have significant effects on the results. Conclussion: The seven studies examined in this paper strongly suggest that there is some genetic component to risk for alcoholism. However, the situation is rarely so clear cut as having a specific gene that makes a person more at risk for alcoholism. Though the risk of alcoholism may have a genetic component, it is unclear how much of this is passed from parent to child.
Twins might have the same genetic risk, but a child will not necessarily have the same risk as its parents or siblings. Genetics may code for a stronger high as the result of alcohol consumption that could lead to heightened drinking activity among social drinkers, but these people by definition have a choice, and this choice overrides the genetic component. Genetics can even cause people to react negatively to alcohol, and therefore lower the risk of alcoholism in those people with the “right” genes. Overall, the situation is far more complex than this. Genes interact with one another.
They may be inherited in suite, and dependent upon certain combinations for certain outcomes. The location of a gene may make it seem like it is important, when really it is that a gene is located near a different, involved gene that makes it seem relevant. Also, as was shown in the study about rats, responses to alcohol can be learned. These responses can be learned even before birth, and may influence patterns of future use. This is important if we are examining familial risk.
If a person drinks heavily because of prenatal conditioning due to maternal consumption, statistically it will look like the person inherited risk from the parent. Alcoholism can also be influenced by other factors. Two of the studies correlated behavioral problems with alcohol use. It is also true that the methods of study can influence results. Usually the information about alcohol consumption is gathered by questioning the subjects.
This information is vital to statistical approaches. This information is also highly suspect. From an anthropological perspective, alcoholism must have many contributing factors, of which genetics is just one. Human agency, learned behavior, and cultural influences must not be overlooked. Behavior, even given a large genetic component, is completely dependent upon environment.
There has to be an environment to which to react. One might be an alcoholic in New York, and a Buddhist monk in Northern California, with the same genetics. An anthropologist must look at genetics as one wave in a sea of influences. Anthropology.