The level of response to alcohol in daughters of alcoholics and controls

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2005 Jul;79(1):83-93. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2005.01.002.


Background: The low level of response (LR) to alcohol is a genetically influenced characteristic related to the development of alcohol use disorders (AUDs). This phenotype is found in men with a family history (FH) of alcoholism, predicts future AUDs, and has heritabilities as high as 60%. However, despite evidence of genetic influences for AUDs in both sexes, the majority of studies evaluating differences in LR across high- and low-risk groups have been conducted on males, and it is unclear how generalizable these results are to women.

Methods: Twenty-five women who are family history positive (FHP) for alcohol dependence were matched with 25 women with no FH of alcoholism (FHN) on factors that may impact LR. Using an alcohol challenge paradigm, data on the reaction to a moderate dose of alcohol were gathered over a period of 3.5 h. Assessments included breath alcohol concentrations (BrACs), the Subjective High Assessment Scale (SHAS), as well as body sway or static ataxia.

Results: Family history positives reported lower subjective intoxication than FHNs. In addition, when body sway scores were corrected for skewness, FHPs had significantly lower scores on alcohol-related changes in lateral sway. These differences remained after considering the effects of drinking history and BrAC values.

Conclusions: This study evaluated the LR to alcohol in the largest sample of alcohol challenges in matched FHP and FHN women to date. Overall, the findings are consistent with most data from earlier investigations of smaller sized samples of FHP women. The results suggest that, similar to sons of alcoholics, a low LR to alcohol might also be characteristic of daughters of alcoholics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholism / genetics*
  • Child of Impaired Parents / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Gait
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Surveys and Questionnaires