Genetics of alcoholism

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2014 Dec;16(12):518. doi: 10.1007/s11920-014-0518-0.


Alcohol use and alcohol use disorders are substantially heritable. Variants in genes coding for alcohol metabolic enzymes have long been known to influence consumption. More recent studies in family-based samples have implicated GABRA2, nicotinic receptor genes such as CHRNB3, and a number of other specific single genes as associated with alcohol use disorders. The growing use of genetic analyses, in particular studies using polygenic risk scores; neurobiologic pathways; and methods for quantifying gene × gene and gene × environment interactions have also contributed to an evolving understanding of the genetic architecture of alcohol use disorders. Additionally, the study of behavioral traits associated with alcohol dependence such as impulsivity and sensation seeking, and the influences of demographic factors (i.e., sex and ethnicity) have significantly enhanced the genetics of alcoholism literature. This article provides a brief overview of the current topically relevant findings in the field to date and includes areas of research still requiring attention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / genetics*
  • Humans