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Some More Sensitive to Effects of Alcohol, Study Finds

That response may make them more vulnerable to alcoholism, researchers say

MONDAY, May 16, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- People who are more sensitive to the rewarding effects of alcohol may be at increased risk for greater consumption of alcohol and for alcoholism, researchers report.

It's known that people with a family history of alcoholism are more likely than other people to become alcoholics. This study looked at people with a family history of type I alcoholism, but no alcohol problems themselves.

Type I alcoholism is less severe but more prevalent than type II alcoholism, which has a strong genetic risk. Type I alcoholism is characterized by a relatively late onset of alcohol dependence in socially well-adjusted people, low prevalence of family alcoholism and a milder course, according to the authors of the study that appears online and in the August print issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

They gave the equivalent of three alcoholic drinks or a placebo to 51 healthy men and women who had either a positive family history of alcoholism (FHP) or no family history of alcoholism (FHN).

"Participants with a family member with Type I alcoholism reported more stimulant-like effects after the alcohol, compared to the FHN participants," Harriet de Wit, a professor in the psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience department at the University of Chicago, said in a journal news release. "This suggests that even children of Type I alcoholics may inherit some characteristic that changes how they feel after alcohol which may, in turn, affect their risk for alcohol abuse. With alcohol and many other drugs, stimulant-like subjective effects are often associated with high risk for abuse."

"These results tell us that some of us are more sensitive to the rewarding properties of alcohol, which in turn might lead to increased consumption," study first author Anna H.V. Soderpalm Gordh, an assistant professor at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, said in the news release.

"So, be aware of your reaction," she advised. "If you notice that you might react stronger, happier or more rewarded than your friends when you drink, try to slow down or not drink any more than the rest do. Try to drink the recommended units per week -- seven to eight for women, 13 to 14 for men -- as any more than that is classified as risky consumption."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more about alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, news release, May 16, 2011
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