1 Part Genes, 7 Parts Peers

Alcohol use disorders may have more to do with peer influence than genetics

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Yes, there are genes involved with alcoholism, but starting to abuse alcohol with friends at an early age may be the real problem. Good habits - and bad ones - start early.

A recent study interviewed 104 teens and sampled their DNA for risks for alcoholism. These research findings showed the greatest risk came from hanging out with other teens who were bad influences.

The results of this study suggested having a genetic risk for developing alcoholism might not lead to the actual issue unless there are environmental factors like uninvolved parents, or friends who also abuse alcohol.

"Watch your kids for signs of drinking."

Robert Miranda, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, led research into risk factors for developing alcohol use disorders.

Dr. Miranda, “The harmful effects of underage drinking are well documented. They include injury-related death, suicide, victimization, academic failure and dropout, and possibly irreversible damage to the developing brain.”

For the study, 104 young men and women aged 12-19, of European ancestry were interviewed about their relationship with and attitudes toward alcohol, parental involvement and friend behavior.

Each of the participants also provided a DNA sample to the researchers to check for a possible genetic link to risk of developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Researchers were checking for links between a genetic predisposition for an AUD and environmental risk factors to trigger the genetics.

Test results found 18 of the youths had an AUD, six of which carried a single gene linked to AUD and two of which carried a double gene linked to AUD.

Lack of parental monitoring increased the odds of developing an AUD by 0.16 times, but friend influencing drinking behavior increased the odds of developing an AUD by 7.64 times.

Dr. Miranda said, “The key finding of this study is that while genetics appear to play a role in the development of alcohol problems among teenagers, environmental factors can considerably reduce this risk.”

Authors recommended further studies on a larger population to duplicate these findings.

Dr. Miranda said, “It is well-known that parenting practices and affiliation with deviant peers influence the risk of developing problems with alcohol during adolescence.”

“If you are a parent, pay closer attention to your child’s whereabouts, and with whom your kids are affiliating socially, both of which can pay enormous dividends in reducing problems.”

This study was published in November in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

 No financial information was given and no conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 14, 2012
Last Updated:
May 10, 2013