Interactive Effects of the Serotonin Transporter 5-HTTLPR Polymorphism and Stressful Life Events on College Student Drinking and Drug Use


      A common functional polymorphism, 5-HTTLPR, in the serotonin transporter gene has been associated with heavy drinking in college students. We examined this polymorphism as it interacted with negative life events to predict drinking and drug use in college students.


      Daily reports of drinking and drug use obtained using a daily web-based survey were combined with self-reports of past-year negative life events and 5-HTTLPR genotypes in a regression analysis of alcohol and nonprescribed drug use in a sample of 295 college students.


      Genotype and negative life events significantly interacted in relation to drinking and drug use outcomes. Individuals homozygous for the short (s) allele who experienced multiple negative life events in the prior year reported more frequent drinking and heavy drinking, stronger intentions to drink, and greater nonprescribed drug use. In individuals homozygous for the long (l) allele, drinking and drug use were unaffected by past-year negative life events. Heterozygous subjects showed drinking outcomes that were intermediate to the two homozygous groups.


      The 5-HTTLPR s-allele is associated with increased drinking and drug use among college students who have experienced multiple negative life events. The s-allele carriers may be at risk for a variety of adverse behavioral outcomes in response to stress.

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