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Is Alcoholism Genetic?

Previous research had established that individuals with a family history of alcoholism have an enhanced risk of developing alcoholism themselves as compared// to persons who carry no such family history. Now, a recent study has revealed that individuals with a strong family history of alcoholism coupled with behavioral disinhibition run the greatest risk of alcoholism, although it is not absolutely certain that they will become alcoholics.

William R. Lovallo, Director of the Behavioral Sciences Laboratories at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Oklahoma City and corresponding author for the study, said: 'The development of alcoholism among individuals with a family history of alcoholism is about four to eight times more common than it is among individuals with no such family history. Although the definition of 'family history' is different according to different researchers, we define it as when either or both of the person's parents have had an alcohol problem.'

Researchers conducted a study to test the cognitive and behavioral characteristics of 175 male and female nonalcoholic in the 18- to 30-year-old age bracket with equal number of participants who had a positive family history of alcoholism and those who did not. The participants were also assessed regarding their level of behavioral disinhibition using the Sociability scale of the California Personality Inventory. The participants were then subjected to the stroop color-Word test, as well as the Iowa Gambling Task.

Results showed that the family history positive individuals who also had behavioral disinhibition seemed to suffer working-memory deficits. Additionally, the male individuals in this group seemed to be inclined to go after the thrills of risk-taking challenges.

In the words of Finn, 'FH+ subjects with behavioral disinhibition performed more poorly on the Stroop task, which suggests poor inhibitory control. The FH+ males also pay more attention to rewards w hen making decisions, as evidenced by results on the Iowa gambling task. This study suggests a potential mechanism – increased attention to gains – that may be responsible, in part, for the increased vulnerability of those with a family history for alcoholism.'

The findings clearly show that if a person has a strong family history of alcoholism, and also shows a tendency to take risks, break rules etc, then the person is certainly under the high risk category for becoming an alcoholic
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