Of the alcoholism-related genes, those most consistently linked with it are the ALDH genes, which are involved in alcohol metabolism. In this study, some 400 male alcoholics and 200 female alcoholics were genotyped for the ALDH2 gene. Some of the subjects had an inactive form of the ALDH2 gene; others had an active form. The researchers then compared the men with the inactive form to the men with the active form, and the women with the inactive form to the women with the active form.
They found gender-related differences. For example, the onset age of alcoholism in the women with the inactive form was significantly lower than in the women with the active form. This was not the case for the men. Moreover, prevalence of comorbid psychiatric disorders was significantly higher in women with the inactive form. This was not the case for the men.
While genes and gender influence alcoholism susceptibility, so does environment. Scientists recently found that when people who possess a particular variant of an alcohol-susceptibility gene—KCNJ6—also experience early-life adversity, they are even more at risk of alcohol problems than if they just had the gene variant. Read more about this study in Psychiatric News at http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/46/7/16.1.full.
For an in-depth view of the latest clinical knowledge in treating alcoholism, see American Psychiatric Publishing's new book, Clinical Manual for Treatment of Alcoholism and Addictions. Purchasing information is available at http://www.appi.org/.