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ADHD and Alcoholism Linked

Those with disorder in adulthood more likely to suffer drinking problems, German researchers say

TUESDAY, Oct. 14, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and alcoholism are connected, says a German study in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The researchers identified a distinct phenotype (profile) of adults who have ADHD and alcoholism. However, despite previous research suggesting a common genetic cause of ADHD and alcoholism, this study found no evidence of a significant contribution from two specific candidate genes.

"Our results indicate that individuals with persisting ADHD symptoms in adulthood seem to be at high risk of developing an alcohol-use disorder. Moreover, there is evidence for a highly increased severity of alcohol dependence in subjects with ADHD," study author Dr. Monika Johann of the University of Regensburg says in a prepared statement.

The study included 314 adult alcoholics and 220 healthy control subjects. They were all assessed for such psychiatric disorders as substance abuse (including alcoholism), ADHD, and antisocial personality disorder (APD).

The researchers also conducted genetic tests, focusing on the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTT) and the 5-HT2c receptor Cys23Ser polymorphism. Previous research suggested these may play a role in ADHD and alcoholism.

But this study concluded they don't appear to be genetic risk factors. Several other candidate genes have yet to be investigated.

The study findings do indicate a distinct phenotype of adults with ADHD and alcoholism. The adult alcoholics with ADHD in this study drank more alcohol per day and over the course of a month, had an earlier age of onset of alcohol dependence, greater frequency of suicidal thoughts, higher occurrence of APD and had been in court more times.

So, even though the study didn't find a common genetic predisposition, "the data show once again that to have ADHD means to be at high risk for developing alcohol dependence," Johann says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about ADHD.

SOURCE: University of Regensburg, news release, Oct. 14, 2003
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