Personal Views Page

(This page will carry from time to time the personal views of some of our members on issues which they believe are important in the recovery process. Our present policy is that these authors will remain anonymous and will be limited to members of the Washington, D.C. Area SMART groups. They do not necessarily reflect positions either of the Washington, D.C. Area SMART groups, nor its National Headquarters. Comments are welcomed.)
A complete list of all previous essays is given at the bottom of this page; you can click on any of these to get the text itself.

"The Gene for Alcohol Abuse"

(I hope we all agree that there can't be just one gene - there are at least dozens that may provide a predilection for becoming an alcohol abuser at some point.)

Having just seen a brief blurb on the 5:00 news about promising research in the area of identifying those genes, I'm starting to wonder what's supposed to happen if they are positively identified? What then?

The scenario I visualize looks something like this:

At some point in the not-too-distant future, all children at the age of (?) submit to a genetic screening. They are given a printout explaining exactly what each of the 'markers' actually represents. Dick gets his printout. He reads it carefully, taking note of several points of interest - for instance, that he'll probably never grow to be more than 5'9" in height ("Darn!"), and should be very cautious about his cholesterol levels ("Easy - I'll start monitoring that when I'm really, really old - like 35 or something").

Then he gets to the part about his susceptibility to becoming an alcohol abuser. It says things like "these only indicate that you might have an enhanced susceptibility to becoming an alcoholic, not that you WILL be one if you drink alcohol," and "the results indicate that you will metabolize alcohol quite efficiently, so you will exhibit such things as slurred speech and balance problems relatively soon after ingesting alcohol."

"Hmmm," he thinks, "so I'll metabolize alcohol efficiently,' eh? Guess that means I won't have to drink much to get drunk. And I guess it means I probably won't win any drinking contests either. Ah well - good with the bad, I guess."

And as far as the part about "...not that you WILL be one if you drink alcohol," he takes that as a challenge.

"I'll show Them," he thinks. "When I start drinking, I'll PROVE that I'm not fated to become one of those alcoholics!"

That's him.

Jane, on the other hand, discovers from her test printout that she's at a "reduced risk to become alcohol dependent," since she will "metabolize alcohol less efficiently than most."

"Gee," Jane thinks, "I'll probably be able to win at least some of those drinking contests when I'm pledging Delta Welta Iota, and don't have to worry about ever becoming a drunk like Aunt Sally. Good genes! Good news!

That's her.

So what's the real advantage of knowing whether - or not - you have those "alcoholic gene(s)"? How does knowing your susceptibility give you a 'leg up' on anybody who doesn't? Just knowing the risks involved hasn't seemed to be beneficial to people who buy lottery tickets, drive fast, eat 'unhealthy' foods, sleep around, bungee jump, leave their keys in their cars, shun exercise, run marathons, run up their credit cards, joint religious cults, ride motorcycles, etc., etc., etc.

So why would it be helpful in THIS instance?

This is Essay No. 19, issued January, 2004.

Previous Essays
July, 2002--What's a D. W. U.?

August, 2001--Book Review: Sober For Good

May, 2001--Painkillers, Anti-Depressants and Recovery

November, 2000--Recovery---Is It Brain Surgery or Bicycle-Riding?

April, 2000--New Booklet on Research-Based Treatment

February, 2000--How Do We Stop Drinking: A Group Discussion

December, 1999--The Myth of "Self-Esteem" and Recovery

September, 1999--Religion and Recovery

July, 1999--Can People Who Are Not Committed to Abstinence Attend SMART Meetings?

March, 1999--Recovery Is Not a Four-Day Course in Rational Recovery

January, 1999--SMART Recovery in a Nutshell

November, 1998--Other Roads to Recovery

September, 1998--How I Re-Thought My Beliefs on My "Alcoholism"

July, 1998--Why Do People Join SMART Recovery?

May, 1998--A Critique of PBS' Bill Moyers on Addiction

March, 1998--Should People With Gambling or Overeating Disorders Be Welcome At SMART Meetings?

January, 1998--Differences Between SMART and AA

November, 1997--Fifty Ways to Recover

Return to Main Page

Comments? e-mail
Smart Recovery©1996-2009, 2010, 2011