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Study: Sensitivity to alcohol may predict alcoholism

2009-05-27 10:26 BJT

LOS ANGELES, May 26 (Xinhua) -- The more people need to drink to feel the effects of alcohol, the greater the chance of becoming an alcoholic, a new study shows.

The conclusion was based on a long-term study of nearly 300 men by researchers at the Alcohol Research Center for the Veterans Affairs in San Diego, Southern California.

The study gauged the participants' reaction to alcohol between ages 18 and 25, then again 10 years later and in five-year intervals afterward.

Having a low level of response to alcohol at the start accurately predicted drinking disorders in the men's future, regardless of other factors, according to the study published by Health Day News on Tuesday.

This apparent lack of sensitivity to imbibing intoxicants, called a low level of response (LR) to alcohol, can lead a person to drink more heavily to get that buzz or other desired effect, said the study.

The condition appears to be genetic and independent of other influences on alcohol usage, such as the age a person started drinking, family history of alcohol abuse, and body mass index, the study said.

"A low LR at age 20 was not just a reflection of being a heavier drinker at age 20 when we tested these men, and it wasn't an artifact of an earlier onset of drinking," said the study's corresponding author, Marc A. Schuckit, director of the center.

"We showed that a low LR at 20 predicts later heavy drinking and alcoholism, even if you control for all these other predictors of alcohol problems at age 20," he said.

Determining someone's response level to alcohol in early adulthood, then, could help that person make life changes that might prevent the development of a drinking problem later in life, Schuckit noted.

But he also noted that having a high, or more immediate, reaction to alcohol would not guarantee that a person wouldn't develop a drinking problem, because many other factors can contribute to alcoholism.

Editor: Liu Fang | Source: Xinhua