In this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a very large collaboration (specifically twenty-three) of alcohol researchers have elucidated single-nucleotide polymorphisms and demographic information (gender, race, concomitant drug use) tied to alcohol dependence. Overall, African-Americans have the highest risk of alcohol dependence (comparing African-Americans with reoccurring alcoholism vs. social drinking controls). This risk is further potentiated in males and alcoholics who regularly consume (or abuse) another drug of abuse. The respective social controls had almost no consumption of another drug of abuse, excluding cigarette smoking, though cigarette smoking was still more greatly reported in alcoholics. Side note: to paraphrase a friend of whom I asked why do people have a desire to concomitantly drink and smoke, but not consume one or the other alone, he responded, ResearchBlogging.orgIt’s similar to when you have to poop, you can’t help but do one [poop] without doing the other [pee]. In this study, though many single-nucleotide polymorphisms were identified, many of them encoded for GABA receptors, which alcohol has an extremely high binding affinity for. This extensive analysis of genetic and environmental influences on alcoholism reveals the substantial challenges we face to reduce and prevent alcohol abuse and relapse, respectively.

Bierut LJ, Agrawal A, Bucholz KK, Doheny KF, Laurie C, Pugh E, Fisher S, Fox L, Howells W, Bertelsen S, Hinrichs AL, Almasy L, Breslau N, Culverhouse RC, Dick DM, Edenberg HJ, Foroud T, Grucza RA, Hatsukami D, Hesselbrock V, Johnson EO, Kramer J, Krueger RF, Kuperman S, Lynskey M, Mann K, Neuman RJ, Nöthen MM, Nurnberger JI Jr, Porjesz B, Ridinger M, Saccone NL, Saccone SF, Schuckit MA, Tischfield JA, Wang JC, Rietschel M, Goate AM, Rice JP, & as part of the Gene, Environment Association Studies (GENEVA) Consortium (2010). A genome-wide association study of alcohol dependence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America PMID: 20202923