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Medical Research Links Alcoholism To Genetic Factors

By Monique A. Sullivan

Genetic factors may greatly influence an individual's chance of becoming an alcoholic, a team of Harvard professors report in the current New England Journal of Medicine.

Jack H. Mendelson, professor of Psychiatry, and Nancy K. Mello, associate professor of Psychology, updated research done during the last decade, primarily in Denmark.

The scientists studied people adopted at birth in an effort to distinguish between environmental and genetic influences. The rate of alcoholism among adopted Danish males with an alcoholic biological parent was almost four times that of a control group.

Only men were studied, because alcoholism is rare among Danish women.

In cases where a boy was brought up in a family with one alcoholic parent while his brother was raised in a non-alcoholic foster home, the alcoholism rate was the same.

The scientists also found that alcoholism was more prevalent among certain racial and ethnic groups.

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