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Contempo 1999
May 26, 1999

New Findings in the Genetics of Alcoholism

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, and the Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program, San Diego Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Diego, Calif.


Edited by Thomas C. Jefferson, MD, JAMA Fishbein Fellow.

JAMA. 1999;281(20):1875-1876. doi:10.1001/jama.281.20.1875

This article reviews recent research on the importance of genetic influences on alcohol abuse and dependence. The ultimate goal of those studies was to identify genetically influenced characteristics, or phenotypes, that affect alcoholism risk. This might then facilitate the search for social and environmental influences that are more directly useful in prevention and treatment.

The contribution of genetic influences in alcoholism is supported by the 3- to 4-fold higher prevalence of this disorder in first-degree relatives of alcoholics, a rate that increases another 2-fold in identical twins of alcoholics.1-4 Adoption-type studies reveal that the increased risk remains strong for children of alcoholics adopted and raised by nonalcoholics.5,6