Genetics Can Determine Why Adolescents Drink

A person’s background and family history have a lot to do with whether or not they will deal with an alcohol problem at any time in their lives. A number of studies into the association between alcoholism and genes have been conducted on adults. Now, a new study examines the association between genetics and alcohol misuse among adolescents.

Science Daily recently posted a release that examined the findings of this study that are set to be published in the January 2010 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

In a study of 187 adolescents with a mean age of 15.4 years, researchers assess participants for alcohol-use disorders (AUDs) and other psychiatric diagnoses. In addition, they gathered continuous measures of alcohol misuse and examined drinking motives.

“Our findings provide the first evidence to suggest that teenagers who carry a certain variant of the OPRM1 gene experience more alcohol-related problems and are more likely to meet diagnostic criteria for an AUD,” explained Robert Miranda, Jr., assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University and corresponding author for the study.

In fact, results from this study indicate that 51.9 percent of youth with an AUD carried at least one copy of the G allele compared to 16.3 percent of youth who did not carry the AUD. Individuals with the G allele of the OPRMI receptor gene may be more likely to drink as they experience alcohol as more pleasurable.

“We found that adolescent drinkers with this variant reported drinking to enhance how they feel more often than those without this variant, and this difference explained, at least in part, why youth with this OPRM1 variant were more likely to experience alcohol-related problems,” added Miranda, Jr.

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