It’s long been believed by scientists that our genes play a role in determining whether we will become alcoholics. One new study shows that our genes not only determine if we will develop a drinking problem, but also how likely we are to get better.
The study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry was led by Henry R. Kranzler, MD. Researchers found that the drug topiramate can seriously decrease problematic drinking among heavy drinkers. However, the study’s findings extended further by demonstrating people with a certain genetic marker respond best to the drug, meaning our genes play a role in addiction recovery.
Winning the the prestigious Dan Anderson Research Award from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s Butler Center for Research, the study has been well-received in the addiction research community and is considered to be Dr. Kranzler’s seminal work.
The drug topiramate is an anticonvulsant that is often prescribed to treat migraines and seizures. However, when administered to people with risky drinking habits (defined as drinking more than 24 drinks a week for men and more than 15 drinks a week for women) those patients were able to reduce the number of nights of extreme drinking and also have more days where they simply didn’t drink at all.
Subjects who had a specific gene marker present in approximately 40% of European-Americans received the full benefit of the treatment. The team that conducted the study was hopeful that a new drug could be designed that would target the cause of heavy drinking more directly and have fewer side effects than topiramate.
Although the drug only worked in full effect on a certain portion of the population, the study was an important step forward in “personalized medicine,” the treatment of disease personalized to a person’s genetics.
Instead of being a blanket cure for addiction, this new treatment can help certain people in specific circumstances. Dr. Kranzler said of the study, “these findings may allow us to predict, in advance, who may benefit from topiramate treatment, thereby avoiding the unnecessary use of the medication.”
For those who are struggling with heavy drinking today, getting addiction treatment now is the best way to avoid legal, professional, and relationship problems. The alcohol recovery programs at Banyan Treatment Center can help you break your drinking habit and turn the page to a new chapter in your life without substance abuse.