Despite the well documentation of the affinity between alcohol dependence and depression, scientists and clinicians alike have been baffled about the co-occurrence of these diseases.
Contemporary researches suggest a close relationship between drinking and depression. While drinking alcohol is a risk factor for depression due to its ability to make adverse changes in the brain, a range of depressive symptoms make a person seek refuge in alcohol.
At times, many individuals abuse alcohol due to its mood uplifting effects, believing that it’ll help them weather all stresses and strains. However, it only worsens their risk for developing depression. Besides the above bi-directional casual hypothesis, scientists have hypothesized that the presence of some genetic determinants increase the vulnerability to both conditions in an individual. In a recent paper, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, researchers have at last unearthed this link.
Shared genetic vulnerability increases risk of alcohol dependence and depression
The study led by the geneticist Shizhong Han discovered for the first time how genetics at a molecular level becomes a risk factor for co-occurring disorders on a genome-wide scale. This study was made possible with the advancement in diagnostic technologies that now allow scientists to directly look at molecular gene sets without having the need to speculate or rely on indirect evidence. James Potash, the study co-author said, “We now have this molecular genetic information from millions of places in the genome on many thousands of people that can help find specific areas in the genome contributing to a disease or highlight a particular individual’s risk for alcoholism and depression.”
To ascertain the risk for depression, the researchers examined the depression polygenic risk score (PRS), a yardstick for measuring depression risk by including genetic variations across the genome. They analyzed the genetic data of 3,871 participants diagnosed with alcohol dependence and 3,347 healthy participants who were part of four large genome-wide association studies.
These studies included the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA); the Study of Addiction, Genetics and Environment (SAGE); the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study (NHRVS) and the Yale-Penn genetic study of substance dependence.
The key findings of the study are as follows:
- Across all studies, a higher PRS for major depressive disorder (MDD) was associated with a greater risk for alcohol dependence.
- Upon adjusting for MDD, the results remained consistent.
- A shared genetic susceptibility was discovered between both conditions that indicated that a greater PRS for depression is associated with greater risk for alcohol dependence.
The study findings emphasize the role of an individual’s genetics in the development of dual diagnosis. Although mood disorders and alcohol dependence have been associated with one another due to a number of social, biological and environmental factors, the understanding of the genetic correlation provides an opportunity to design effective pharmacologic interventions to address both conditions simultaneously.
In addition, genetic diagnostic tools have the potential to look for any indication of predisposition to any of these conditions even before the onset. As a result, it allows the individual to take preventive steps rather than being limited to corrective measures. The authors, however, assert the need for further research to comprehend the ways specific genetic factors lead to co-occurring diseases like alcohol dependence and depression.
Seek holistic treatment to treat dual diagnosis
Though living with a mental disorder or an addiction is hard, individuals with co-occurring disorders experience a greater degree of disease burden and complications that negatively impact treatment, recovery and the likelihood of relapse. Moreover, it displays more resistance to treatment, needs a specialized and integrated treatment to addresses both co-occurring disorders, etc. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of the warning signs and consult an expert immediately.
If you or your loved one is battling both a mental disorder and a substance use disorder (SUD), it is imperative to seek professional help. The Florida Dual Diagnosis Helpline assists in connecting with the finest dual diagnosis treatment centers in Florida that specialize in delivering evidence-based interventions. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-337-7631 or chat online to know more about the dual diagnosis treatment facilities in Florida.