Alcohol consumption and alcohol dependence are closely related, but the causes of susceptibility to the two may be different. New research has found that variation in long-term average alcohol intake is almost entirely due to genetic differences. Some genes affect both alcohol intake and dependence, while others affect only dependence.
Even though alcohol consumption and alcohol dependence are closely related, the causes of susceptibility to the two are not necessarily the same. A study in the August issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research looks at the genetic and environmental causes of variation in long-term alcohol consumption, and estimates what degree of overlap may exist with causes of susceptibility to alcohol dependence. Results indicate that variation in long-term average alcohol intake is almost entirely due to genetic differences, and that some genes affect both intake and dependence while others affect only dependence.
"Alcohol consumption is about how much a person drinks at some particular time, whereas alcohol dependence is more about the effects that alcohol has, or has had, on a person – their behaviour, their neurophysiology, and their relationships with other people," explained John B. Whitfield, senior scientist at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney and first author of the study.
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