Researchers firmly believe that alcoholism is a complex behavior that draws from both environmental and genetic factors. A recent examination of families selected for their smoking behavior has identified the same region of chromosome four that was identified by earlier studies as being linked to the initiation of alcohol consumption. Results are published in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
"It is commonly observed that people that drink also smoke and vice versa," explained Kirk C. Wilhelmsen, associate professor in the departments of genetics and neurology at the University of North Carolina as well as corresponding author for the study. "This suggested to us that families selected for smoking behavior would also have an increased incidence of drinking behavior."
"Twin studies of alcohol consumption have a long history and were the first to suggest the importance of genetic factors in alcohol use and alcoholism," added Gary E. Swan, director of the Center for Health Sciences at SRI International and also an author of the study. "The identification of linkages between specific genomic regions of interest and alcohol use and abuse is an area of science that has been active for about seven years. A consistent finding from these studies is the linkage between a region of chromosome four containing several genes that produce enzymes involved in the metabolism of alcohol and families with a high frequency of alcohol abuse."
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