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April 21, 1989

Research Increasingly Focuses on Possible Genetic Factors in Complex Problem of Alcohol Abuse

JAMA. 1989;261(15):2170-2171. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420150016003

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THE NATIONAL Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA) has put the call out for a long-term, multicenter study of families of alcoholics.

The Rockville (Md)—based institute envisions the study as a collaborative effort among alcohol researchers, molecular biologists, and geneticists. Such a study may be the only way to answer some of alcoholism's enduring questions, particularly those centering on genetic aspects.

Although there are some dissenters from mainstream opinion, the consensus is that alcoholism is a heritable disease with some basis in physiology. "The evidence is overwhelming," says Enoch Gordis, MD, director of the NIAAA. But, where observations have been made, the individual roles played by nature and by nurture have not been sorted out, and questions about which specific conditions are caused by alcohol abuse ("state") vs which are the cause of abuse ("trait") remain.

Genetic Evidence Just Emerging  Studies during this century have established that children in