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Genetic and Environmental Predictors of Early Alcohol Use

  • Joan Kaufman
    Correspondence
    Address reprint requests to Joan Kaufman, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) Program, Yale University, University Towers–Suite 2H, 100 York Street, New Haven, CT 06511
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven

    Clinical Neuroscience Division, National Center for PTSD, Veterans Administration Healthcare Center, West Haven, Connecticut.
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  • Bao-Zhu Yang
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven

    Division of Human Genetics (Psychiatry), National Center for PTSD, Veterans Administration Healthcare Center, West Haven, Connecticut

    Clinical Neuroscience Division, National Center for PTSD, Veterans Administration Healthcare Center, West Haven, Connecticut.
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  • Heather Douglas-Palumberi
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven
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  • Mindy Crouse-Artus
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven
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  • Deborah Lipschitz
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven
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  • John H. Krystal
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven

    Clinical Neuroscience Division, National Center for PTSD, Veterans Administration Healthcare Center, West Haven, Connecticut.
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  • Joel Gelernter
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven

    Division of Human Genetics (Psychiatry), National Center for PTSD, Veterans Administration Healthcare Center, West Haven, Connecticut

    Clinical Neuroscience Division, National Center for PTSD, Veterans Administration Healthcare Center, West Haven, Connecticut.
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Published:November 24, 2006DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.06.039

      Background

      The goal of the current investigation was to examine genetic and environmental predictors of early alcohol use, a potent predictor of later alcohol dependence.

      Methods

      This study represents an add-on project to an investigation examining the efficacy of an intervention for maltreated children entering out-of-home care. Predictors of early alcohol use include the following: maltreatment, family loading for alcohol or substance-use disorders, and serotonin transporter genotype (5-HTTLPR; locus SLC6A4). Participants included 127 subjects: 76 maltreated children and 51 demographically matched community controls.

      Results

      At follow-up, 29% of the maltreated children reported alcohol use, a rate more than seven times the rate observed in controls. Maltreated children also drank alcohol, on average, more than 2 years earlier than controls (11.2 vs. 13.5 years). Early alcohol use was predicted by maltreatment, 5-HTTLPR, and a gene by environment interaction, with increased risk for early alcohol use associated with the s-allele. Psychopathology at baseline, severity of maltreatment, and poor mother–child relations also predicted early alcohol use.

      Conclusions

      Maltreated children are at high risk for psychiatric, alcohol, and substance abuse problems. Examination of genetic and environmental risk and protective factors can help identify those who are most vulnerable and help guide prevention and intervention efforts.

      Key Words

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