Can You Keep Up?
Technology is rapidly outdoing itself and constantly transforming. In the near future, it is very likely that your patients may simply be able to take a blood test in order to learn if they’re more prone to developing an alcohol dependency based on their genetic build. Until then however, stay aware and keep up with your patient’s habits or tendencies when it comes to consuming alcohol.
Is Your Patient Too Stressed?
The inability to cope with stresses can drastically increase one’s susceptibility to alcohol and substance dependency. Keep up to date with what may be bothering your patient, let them know you are there for them, and most importantly make them aware of the negative tolls stress can place on your body and well-being.
Environmental influences can alter both gene expression and gene function. Multiple studies show that depending on culture, attitudes, stresses and other environmental exposures the genes associated with alcohol dependency and substance abuse are likely to affect the gene’s operations. A persons surrounding environment can explain 40% or more of the risks associated with alcohol and substance abuse problems. Those who are more prone to develop these issues are usually living in high-stress environments or whose peers are heavy drinkers. Understanding more about how the environment affects these specific phenotypes may offer clues to early discovery of individuals with high alcoholism potential and provide approaches to prevent it.
Help your patient realize if he or she is stressed by having them take a stress test here.
More Genes Tied to Alcohol Dependence Risks:
Research from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) suggests that multiple genes, already, do in fact play a specific role in one’s personal susceptibility for alcohol tolerance, and that there are also genes present that may decrease that risk as well. Gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) is the major chemical in the central nervous system and also the most known gene related to developing alcoholism. However, more recent studies suggest that approximately 11 more genetic variations may be linked to increased alcohol dependency as well.
Based on these newly found studies, researchers tested different variations and created a “genetic risk score” found that the average person has a “score” of 47 out of 100. Of those patients that had a score of 48 or above, 75 percent of them were diagnosed with alcoholism.
The recent discovery of these new gene variations that appear to be associated with a higher risk of alcoholism can help to provide more insight into solving the infamous question of why some people drink and don’t get addicted while others struggle with alcoholism and potentially lead to new methods of prevention and/or treatment.
Be Aware of the Risks:
It is crucial for patients who have these genes to seriously take the effects into consideration. Persistent alcohol abuse may produce adaptations in the brain that can result in tolerance, physical dependence, craving and other behavioral changes. These changes in a person’s brain function alter genes and can lead to chronic alcohol dependency if not stopped in its developing stages.
Make sure your patient is fully aware of how alcohol can handicap certain functions of their body, if they are prone to alcohol or substance dependency.
Alcohol’s Effects on the Body:
- Brain- communication pathways are interrupted/ drastic changes in mood, behavior, clear thinking, and also mobility coordination.
- Heart- binge or habitual drinking can damage the heart significantly, causing issues such as cardiomyopathy (stretching/drooping of the heart muscle), arrhythmias (irregular heart heat), high blood pressure, and possibly lead to a stroke.
- Liver- among the most common organs associated with drinking. Heavy drinking can lead to many problems within the liver such as steatosis (fatty liver), alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, or cirrhosis—which may lead to liver failure.
Habitual binge drinking also increases the risk of developing certain cancers of the: mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, and breast because it weakens the immune system making a drinker much more susceptible to diseases.
Learn more about the effects of alcohol from the NIAAA here.
Know the Difference.
It is important to make your patients aware and able to tell the difference between alcohol tolerance and dependence. Someone with an alcohol addiction is likely to have a tolerance, however someone who develops an alcohol tolerance is not necessarily dependent.
Alcohol dependence is hard to diagnose but if you can pinpoint the specific set of symptoms, you can steer your patient in the correct direction. Characteristics that those with alcohol dependencies exhibit are:
- A strong compulsion to drink
- A loss of control over drinking
- An increased tolerance to alcohol
- The continued use of alcohol despite incurring significant physical, mental, or emotional harm due to alcohol consumption
- Withdrawal symptoms when deprived of alcoholic beverages
To learn more about how to give the right diagnostics and understand the differences between alcohol tolerance and dependence click here.