May 26, 2009

Level of response to alcohol, risk factor

A U.S. doctor says teens who report they drink others under the table may be at higher risk of alcoholism.

Dr. Marc Schuckit of the Alcohol Research Center at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System and the University of California, San Diego, says a low level of reaction to alcohol has been found to be a unique risk factor for alcohol use disorders across adulthood and not simply a reflection of a broader range of risk factors.

Schuckit, the corresponding author of a study, looked at alcoholism risk factors such as family history in 297 men. The men -- participants in the San Diego Prospective Study -- were tested on their level of response when recruited between the ages of 18 to 25. They were also evaluated at 10-, 15-, 20- and 25-year follow-ups.

We showed that a low level of reaction at age 20 predicts later heavy drinking and alcoholism even if you control for all these other predictors of alcohol problems at age 20, Schuckit says in a statement.

A person with low level of reaction may tend to drink more each time they imbibe, he says, but identifying the risk early in life may allow ways to decrease the risk.

The study does not mean not having a low level of reaction means not developing alcoholism, Schuckit added.

The findings are scheduled to be published in the September issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.