New Genetic Markers for Alcoholism Recovery Discovered

First Posted: Nov 05, 2014 07:02 AM EST

There may be a new method to help those recovering from alcoholism. Scientists have discovered genetic markers that may help identify individuals who could benefit from the alcoholism treatment drug, acamprosate. The new findings could allow those suffering from alcoholism to receive better treatment in the future.

Acamprosate is a commonly prescribed drug that's used to aid patients who are recovering from alcoholism. It can allow patients to go without a drink and stay sober for longer. However, how effective this drug is depends on the individual. That's why scientists examined the association between variation in candidate genes and the length of sobriety in alcohol-dependent patients treated with acamprosate in community-based programs. In other words, they examined what role genetics played in how long a patient stayed sober while on the drug.

So what did they find? It turns out that when environmental and physiological factors were considered, patients with the common allele of the genetic variant rs2058878 located in the GRIN2B gene stayed sober for longer than those with the variant allele of the same polymorphism.

"This association finding is a first step toward development of a pharmacogenetic test allowing physicians to choose appropriate treatment for specific subgroups of alcohol-dependent patients," said Victor Karpyak, lead author of the new study, in a news release. "We believe that individualized treatment selection will eliminate the need for trial-and-error approaches and improve treatment efficacy in patients with alcohol use disorders."

The findings could be a huge step forward when treating patients. That said, the scientists hope to conduct further studies to look at the longer-term effects of acamprosate on various individuals. In addition, the researchers point out that more studies are needed to determine potential importance of identified genetic variants as well as the molecular and physiological mechanisms behind the drug's action.

The findings are published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

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