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Research turns up
genetic clue to alcoholism


May 31, 1996
Web posted at: 1:45 a.m. EDT

From Correspondent Judy Williams

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Researchers have identified two genes in laboratory animals that may link alcoholism to genetics.

By breeding two strains of mice that crave alcohol with those that shun it, Princeton University researchers identified the genes, one for males and the other for females, that appear to trigger an animal's compulsion to drink.

Dr. David Goldman of the National Institutes of Health said the genetic link to alcoholism is apparent in humans also, but that does not mean some are destined to become heavy drinkers.

"There are genetic factors that influence the behavior," Goldman said. "And then there are also very important factors of the environment and the choices that we make as to what environments that we put ourselves into."

Many experts agree that genetics play a role in alcoholism, but they add, so do upbringing and the hardships some face in life.

"Some people just show up at (age) 20 and they haven't had a lot of life traumas or events in their life, but they're alcoholic," said Dr. Steve Lynn of Ridgeview Institute in Atlanta. "Whereas, someone without a genetic predisposition tends to show up at 40 or 45 after (a) divorce, loss of a job, more problems, more life events."


Cynthia Steele and Judy Williams, counselors of adolescents at Ridgeview and recovering alcoholics, both see how alcoholism runs in families and how just living around it can lead youngsters down the same path.

"Because certainly if you're brought up around something, if you see it all the tie, it becomes normal day to day routine," Steele said. (127K AIFF or WAV sound)

But genetics may make it harder for some to resist the temptation of alcohol or to know how much they can handle.

Hence, those with strong family histories of alcoholism may have to be more conscious about their own risk of alcoholism. And even with a possible link to genetics, recovering alcoholics have learned that it is still up to them to take control of their lives by staying sober.

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