Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Genetics, Environment Differently Influence The 'Pathway Of Risk' Leading To Alcohol Dependence

Date:
April 3, 2008
Source:
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research
Summary:
Alcohol dependence (AD) is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, and involves "transitioning" through multiple stages of drinking behaviors. A study using twins to investigate influences on the rate at which young women progress to AD has found that genetic and individual-specific environmental influences are evident in all transitions. Conversely, environmental influences -- such as exposure to parental conflict -- are evident primarily in the transition from non-use to first alcohol use.

Alcohol dependence (AD) is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, and its development involves "transitioning" through multiple stages of drinking behaviors. A unique study using twins to investigate genetic and environmental influences on the rate at which young women progress to AD has found that genetic and individual-specific environmental influences are evident in all transitions. By contrast, environmental influences common to members of a twin pair (for example, exposure to parental conflict) are evident primarily in the transition from non-use to first alcohol use.

"Women have historically been underrepresented in alcohol research, in part because alcohol-related problems are more prevalent in men, but also because the early notions about alcohol-use disorders were narrower and more focused on stereotypically male traits than they are today," explained Carolyn E. Sartor, postdoctoral research fellow at Washington University School of Medicine and corresponding author for the study. "The decrease we are seeing in the gender gap in alcohol research is a reflection of a general increase in attention to women's health issues ... as well as the closing gender gap in alcohol consumption."

Examining the development of AD in terms of how rapidly individuals transition among stages of use is a relatively new approach that evolved out of an extensive literature on the course of alcohol use and "drinking milestones," said Sartor. "Our aim is to go beyond predicting who will eventually develop alcohol problems to depicting the pathways that lead there."

Study participants were 3,546 female twins, 18 to 29 years of age, from a longitudinal twin-based study of alcohol-related problems and associated psychopathology in female adolescents and young adults. Retrospective reports of alcohol-use histories were collected through telephone interviews and used to determine transition times between drinking milestones: from non-use to initiation, initiation to onset of first alcohol-related problem, and first problem to onset of AD.

Genetic factors were found to contribute significantly to all three transition times, accounting for 30 to 47 percent of the variance. Environmental factors unique to individuals also contributed significantly to the timing of all three transitions, but environmental factors shared by twins were influential only in the rate of progression from non-use to initiation of use.

"Our results indicated that heritable influences are traceable to a common factor, but the degree to which they shape the timing of transitions varies by stage in drinking course," said Sartor. "Genetic factors appear to play a larger role in later-stage transitions than in the age at which girls begin drinking. By contrast, this first stage was the only one influenced significantly by aspects of the environment that are common to members of a twin pairs, such as shared peer influences."

Sartor cautioned that study results should not be interpreted to mean that alcohol-related problems are pre-determined. "Drinking behaviors are influenced in large part by environment at all stages of alcohol use and are therefore modifiable," she said. "That being said, the substantial contribution of genetic factors to the rate at which problem drinking develops does mean that individuals with family histories of alcohol-use disorders are at increased risk and therefore especially important targets for prevention efforts."

By examining AD development in terms of transition points, Sartor noted, the most potent genetic and environmental influences at each stage along this "pathway of risk" can be identified and interventions tailored accordingly.

"For example, we found that environmental factors that make members of a twin pair more similar play a significant role in the age at which girls begin to drink," she said. "This suggests that the most effective strategies for delaying first alcohol use would be those that focus on such environmental factors as parental attitudes toward drinking, friends' alcohol use, and parental monitoring of adolescents' activities."

Sartor and her colleagues are planning to extend their research to the examination of additional stages of drinking behaviors, such as cessation of alcohol use, as well as genetic and environmental influences on the timing of transitions in the development of other substance-use problems. Future studies will include both men and women so that possible gender differences can be detected.

Co-authors of the Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research paper, "Genetic and Environmental Influences on the Rate of Progression to Alcohol Dependence in Young Women," were: Arpana Agrawal, Michael T. Lynskey, Kathleen K. Bucholz, and Andrew C. Heath of the Washington University School of Medicine. The study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. "Genetics, Environment Differently Influence The 'Pathway Of Risk' Leading To Alcohol Dependence." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080403183042.htm>.
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. (2008, April 3). Genetics, Environment Differently Influence The 'Pathway Of Risk' Leading To Alcohol Dependence. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080403183042.htm
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. "Genetics, Environment Differently Influence The 'Pathway Of Risk' Leading To Alcohol Dependence." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080403183042.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Researchers say women who diet at a young age are at greater risk of developing harmful health habits, including eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins