Is Alcohol Tolerance Genetic? And Why It Could Be Dangerous

While this cannot be said to have a direct causal relationship, Asians possess a certain type of DNA strain which increases the percentage chance for genetic alcohol insensitivity. Asian demographics are a singular outlier to the question of genetic and DNA-related alcohol tolerance. The acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ADH) enzyme is the primary enzyme necessary for the liver to process ethanol before it can enter the bloodstream. The prevalence of genetic alcohol sensitivity is only known to be seen in those of East Asian descent. Given these differences, it is evident why some races may be more predisposed to alcohol dependence or higher levels of tolerance than others.

is alcohol tolerance genetic

Sensitivity to alcohol exposure varies among individuals within and across populations. From a genetics perspective, susceptibility to the inebriating effects of alcohol and alcohol addiction can be viewed as quantitative traits that result from the cumulative effects of multiple segregating genes and their interactions with the environment. This review integrates insights obtained from different model systems as well as human population studies to provide a comprehensive overview of the genetic factors that mediate sensitivity to alcohol. Alcohol use disorder is a risk factor for many diseases, including alcoholic cirrhosis, pancreatitis, liver cancer, and cardiovascular disease (see Chapter 1). Men usually tend to drink more heavily and more frequently than women, and this tendency places men at increased risk of disease and alcohol-related mortality.

Coffee Doesn’t Give You the Jitters, Alcohol Makes You Blush: Thank Your Genes

Environment-dependent tolerance is an accelerated tolerance to alcohol when it is continually consumed in a familiar environment. A more rapid metabolism means those who drink alcohol regularly can seem less intoxicated than those who have consumed a similar amount in the same session. Someone with a high tolerance requires more alcohol to feel its effects or appear intoxicated.

is alcohol tolerance genetic

People who take aspirin regularly should probably check with their health care provider about alcohol consumption. Some studies found that sons of alcoholic fathers were less impaired by alcohol than the sons of nonalcoholic fathers. Studies have also found that metabolic tolerance can also lead to the ineffectiveness of some medications in chronic drinkers and even in recovering alcoholics. Functional tolerance is when the brain functions of drinkers adapt to compensate for the disruption that alcohol causes in their behavior and their bodily functions. There are gene variations that could predispose a person to mental illnesses like depression and schizophrenia.

Is There any Evidence That Redheads Have a Higher Genetic Tolerance for Alcohol?

Ireland, Scotland, and Northern Europe at large are all known as hard-drinking nations. The MC1R gene is believed to be responsible for some types of pain perception, which happens in the middle of the brain. However, there’s scant evidence that redheads have a genetically higher tolerance for alcohol. Your face, neck and chest become warm and pink or red right after you drink alcohol. If you have any unpleasant symptoms after drinking alcohol, see your healthcare provider.

If someone “passes out,” this may prevent alcohol toxicity, unless excessive alcohol is consumed very quickly and the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is high. There is always a risk of mixing alcohol with other drugs, because the combination may intensify the effects of both substances. Chronic drinking may activate an enzyme that converts over-the-counter pain medications into chemicals that may cause liver damage. Metabolic tolerance occurs when a specific group of liver enzymes is activated after a period of chronic drinking and results in more rapid elimination of alcohol from the body. Research has found, however, that functional tolerance can develop at the same rate for all of the effects of alcohol. For example, someone may quickly develop a functional tolerance for mental functions, such as solving puzzles, but not for tasks requiring eye-hand coordination, such as driving a vehicle.

Functional Tolerance Can Result in Dependence

Studies have shown hundreds of genes and genetic mutations related to how alcohol affects you, including tolerance. So it’s nearly impossible to place all of the blame on genes for alcohol dependence or claim protection from alcoholism due to genetics. It may seem unfair that an inherited condition keeps you from enjoying the occasional glass of wine or beer.

Researchers reported Monday they’ve found a gene that might help explain why so many people find alcohol irresistible, and why others are able to abstain from more than a drink or two. “Alcoholism is a very complex disease, and there are lots of complicated reasons why people drink. This may be just one of the reasons,” said Kirk Wilhelmsen, MD, PhD, lead author of the study. Even more prevalent than these factors is engaging in enabling and sympathetic drinking with a significant other who is abusing alcohol.

Although scientists believe that the P300 wave reflects specific neurocognitive functions (e.g., the brain’s evaluation of the stimulus and the process of selecting a response), they do not know the physiological basis for these functions. If you suspect that you or someone you know may be addicted to alcohol, you should immediately seek medical treatment. If you think your tolerance is rising, you should temporarily stop drinking to give your body a break. Chronic heavy drinkers can eliminate alcohol two to four times as fast as moderate drinkers and therefore need double or greater amounts of alcohol to maintain the same blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Environment-independent tolerance is an accelerated tolerance to alcohol when it’s continually consumed in a new environment or accompanied by different cues. This type of tolerance is why some people can consume more alcohol with a lesser degree of intoxication in a familiar environment compared to a new environment.

is alcohol tolerance genetic

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