“We don’t know exactly why, but having a relative with a certain type of alcoholism increased the risk of developing these problems with up to 50 percent,” Anna Söderpalm Gordh of Gothenburg University told The Local.
There are two types of alcoholism, type I and type II. Scientists have previously found that sufferers from type I alcoholism may have had a hereditary trait but the onset of the addiction has to a large extent been triggered by external factors, such as habits of one’s social circle or the onset of a crisis.
In type II alcoholism there is a significant genetic risk that the person will develop a drinking problem, regardless of external influences.
In the new Swedish study, scientists gave 51 participants, of which 29 were a control group and 22 were relatives of type I alcoholics, a small amount of alcohol or placebo and asked them to report back how it made them feel.
The results showed that those with a relative with type I alcoholism reported back more positive effects after drinking the alcohol than those from the control group. These also said they wanted a second drink to a higher degree than the others.
“The results show that some of us are more sensitive to the rewarding effects of alcohol. It also indicates that relatives to people who have type I alcoholism have a hereditary inclination to become addicted to alcohol and could be at a higher risk from developing alcoholism,“ Söderpalm Gordh said.
According to Söderpalm Gordh these results are important because it is a definite step towards the ability to identify markers for groups that may carry an inherent risk of developing alcohol problems in the future.
In Sweden almost 40 percent of the population has a relative with a drinking problem, according to Söderpalm Gordh. Armed with these new results it is important that those who know they may be in a risk group are aware of their drinking habits.
“I think that if you know that you are in a risk group and perhaps are going through a crisis it is potentially vital to keep within the limits of recommended weekly units,“ she told The Local.
The study will be published in medical journal Alcohol: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER) and is the first that investigates a group of people that are relatives of type I alcoholics.