Alcoholism Runs in the Family

Home environment an important factor in risk of developing alcoholic disorders

TUESDAY, Dec. 9, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A person's likelihood of developing alcohol abuse disorders is influenced by genetics and family environment, says an American study in the December issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Researchers from the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care System in Menlo Park, Ariz., interviewed 1,213 identical and non-identical male twins (average age 50), 1,270 of the twins' children (aged 12 to 26 years), and 862 mothers of those children.

The interviews were designed to collect detailed information about psychiatric disorders, including alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.

Among the children, 276 had fathers with no alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence. Among the rest of the children, either their father or uncle, or both, had alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence.

Children of twins with a history of alcohol dependence were much more likely to exhibit alcohol abuse or dependence than children of nonalcoholic fathers, the study found.

Children of an alcohol-abusing identical twin whose co-twin was alcohol-dependent were more likely to be alcohol-dependent than children of nonalcoholic twins. Children of an identical twin with no history of alcohol abuse or dependence whose co-twin was alcohol-dependent were no more likely to be alcohol abusers or alcohol-dependent than the children of nonalcoholic 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 authors write.

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SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Dec. 8, 2003
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