The More Alcoholic Relatives A Person Has, The More They Need To Drink To Feel Alcohol's Effects

Armen Hareyan's picture
Advertisement

Alcoholic Relatives

Genes contribute between 50 and 60 percent to the heritability of alcoholism.

A low level of response (LR) to alcohol is an important component of how a family history of alcoholism conveys a person's greater risk of developing alcoholism him or herself.

New findings indicate that the more alcoholic relatives a person has, the lower their LR will likely be.

Advertisement

Alcoholism is genetically influenced, and a low level of response (LR) to alcohol is one of several known risk factors. An individual with a low LR to alcohol, for example, generally needs more drinks to achieve a desired "buzz" from alcohol very early in his or her drinking career. New findings indicate that the more alcoholic relatives a person has, the lower their LR will likely be.

Results are published in the August issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"The conclusion that alcoholism is genetically influenced is supported by the fact that it runs in families, with a high risk for the offspring even if they are adopted away early in life," said Marc A. Schuckit, director of the Alcohol Research Center, Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and first author of the study. "A whole host of different things seem to be responsible for how the family history of alcoholism predicts the development of alcoholism. Two examples of what is being passed down in families to increase the risk of alcoholism are high levels of impulsivity, and a low response to alcohol."

"While it is well known that a family history of alcoholism is a very strong predictor of future alcohol-related problems," agreed Victor Hesselbrock, professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, "the components of a family history that actually convey this risk are not well known. Dr. Schuckit's study helps us begin to understand some of the critical aspects of a family history of alcoholism that increases a person's susceptibility for developing alcohol-related problems. While the amount of variance explained by LR is not large, neither is it trivial. Likely, a person's level of risk for developing alcohol problems is composed of a variety of behavioral, environmental, and genetic factors

Advertisement