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Family History of Common Form of Alcoholism May Increase Sensitivity to Alcohol

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People with a family history of a milder form of alcoholism show a greater response to alcohol, than people without this family history, a new study finds. This enhanced sensitivity to alcohol could increase the risk for developing alcoholism, the researchers say.

While it is already known that people with a family history of alcoholism are at greater risk of developing alcoholism themselves, the new study looked specifically at people with no history of drinking problems who had a family history of Type I alcoholism. This is a milder but more common form of alcoholism that is thought to have less of a genetic component than the more severe Type II alcoholism, HealthDay reports.

The study included 51 men and women, 22 of whom had a family history of Type I alcoholism and 29 who did not. In two sessions, the subjects drank either a beverage containing the equivalent of three alcohol drinks or a placebo.

Participants with a family member with Type I alcoholism said they felt more stimulant-like effects and a more positive mood after drinking alcohol, compared with those who did not have a family history of alcoholism. Researcher Harriet de Wit of the University of Chicago reported in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research that the findings suggest that people with a family history of Type I alcoholism may inherit some characteristic that affects their response to alcohol that may in turn influence their risk for alcohol abuse.

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