A genetic predisposition to my alcoholic behaviours?

Whilst I have overcome many things in my life and I know I am a strong individual, everyone needs a little support every now and again.

I had been referred to an alcohol and drugs misuse service and I hoped that this was a way forward. I have previously had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) many years ago and I still remember and use the tools I learnt. However, I thought I’d take a different approach and see if there was a way to tackle my issues around alcohol head on and I thought this would be it.

Yesterday was my second meeting and whilst the two ladies I have met are lovely and seem great at their job, they both had the same look when looking at me.

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Almost sad and wanting to help but not sure how to help. There is a lot of help for dependency on alcohol but not for those who binge drink.

It’s okay though, I kind of expected it. But I felt very isolated.

However, both seem shocked at my knowledge around the subject.

I know that I am on medication that does not mix with alcohol. I know that a close family member reacts the exact same way to alcohol. I know that I have tried many behavioural techniques to control my actions under the influence of alcohol. I know why I want to stop and why I need to. I know my life is 100% better without alcohol and 100% worse under the influence. Yet, I still feel like something is missing.

I will always take responsibility for my actions, however, I really feel that the switch that flicks inside of me once I have consumed alcohol has got to be a large genetic influence.

I told one of the ladies about my family member who is the same. She thought this was interesting and told me about “The Asian Gene”.

A syndrome officially known as “The Asian Flush” is where a person of asian descent suffers from bright red flushes to their face and neck and they can also suffer from dizziness, racing heart rates and anxiousness. As well as the main percentage of individuals who have this syndrome are from Asian descent, others can have it too.

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I don’t believe I have the syndrome BUT this made me feel a little at ease that there are a large group of people who have an intolerance to alcohol. Maybe there could be something more?

So, I continued my research AND FOUND RESULTS.

A study was conducted in 2010 around the serotonin receptor HTR2b where they found a disruption to the gene which could affect decision making and an individuals amount of self-control when under the influence of alcohol. This could make the individual more prone to impulsive behaviour. However, the study was conducted on violent offenders who had alcohol problems. But still, this was a start.

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I continued researching and found a recent study following up the 2010 study. A Psychiatrist in Helsinki called Roope Tikkanen researched impulsive behaviour in 2015 and retrieved information from 14 individuals who carried the mutated gene. Tikkanen also had 156 control participants who did not have the gene. His findings were that the carriers of the gene were more aggressive and behaved more impulsively under the influence of alcohol than those who did not carry the mutated gene.

As well this, Tikkanen stated that his most interesting finding was that the 14 individuals who carried the mutated gene showed more impulsive behaviours sober than the 156 control participants (e.g. spending lots of money, impulsive sex, extreme sports).

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This study was relatively small and cannot really be generalised BUT it is still incredibly interesting.

I have also said that under the influence of alcohol, there is a point of no return for me where something changes and I become impulsive and partake in risky behaviours that I am less likely to do sober. Most of the time when I am drunk, I am doing impulsive things without even being aware of doing it. It is not until the morning after that I realise the mistakes I have made.

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After leaving the service this morning and feeling isolated and alone because I am not alcohol dependent and there is little help for “binged drinkers”, this information has made me a feel a little less alone. 

I am going to continue researching into the HTR2b receptor and alcohol intolerance as I feel there has got to be something more. I love the Nature/Nurture debate but I do believe that alcohol chemically changes you and this has got to have different affects on different people and there has got to be an answer for it!

Hmmm, new research project?… I should probably leave for a lecture now!

Have a great day!

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