Alcoholism Influenced by Genetics

In a study involving twins, researchers found that addiction to alcohol is often influenced by genetics as well as family environment. For the study, researchers from Palo Alto Veterans – Affairs Health Care System in Menlo Park, Ariz., interviewed 1,213 identical and non-identical male twins  with an average age of 50, 1,270 of the twins’ children, ages 12 to 26, and 862 mothers of those children.

The researchers found that children of twins who had a history of alcohol addiction were more likely to show signs of alcohol misuse or dependence than children of non alcoholic fathers. But while children of alcohol-abusing identical twins whose co-twin was alcohol-dependent were more likely to be alcohol-dependent than children of non alcoholic twins, children of an identical twin with no history of alcohol abuse whose co-twin was alcohol-dependent were no more likely to abuse alcohol than the children of non alcoholic twins. These findings support the hypothesis that family environment effects do make a difference in accounting for offspring outcomes, in particular, that a low-risk environment (i.e., the absence of parental alcoholism) can moderate the impact of high genetic risk regarding offspring for the development of alcohol-use disorders,” the study’s authors said.

Source: Archives of General Psychiatry, Dec 2003.
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