Familial association of abstinent remission from alcohol use disorder in first-degree relatives of alcohol-dependent treatment-seeking probands

Addiction. 2017 Nov;112(11):1909-1917. doi: 10.1111/add.13890. Epub 2017 Jul 6.


Background and aims: Studies that have included family history of alcohol use disorder (AUD) as a predictor of remission from AUD have yielded few significant results. The goals of this study were to estimate the association of persistent AUD, non-abstinent remission and abstinent remission ('AUD/remission status') in a proband with AUD/remission status in a relative and to test whether this association differed in related and unrelated proband-relative pairs.

Design: High-risk family study of alcohol dependence. Probands were recruited from treatment settings and relatives were invited to participate. Baseline assessments occurred between 1991 and 1998 with follow-up between 1996 and 2005. Half of probands were matched with a biological 1st-degree relative with life-time AUD (related group) and half of probands were paired with an unrelated individual with life-time AUD (unrelated group).

Setting: Brooklyn, New York; Indianapolis, Indiana; Iowa City, Iowa; San Diego, California; Farmington, Connecticut; and St Louis, Missouri, USA.

Participants: A total of 606 probands (25.7% female, mean age 37.7) with baseline and follow-up data and 606 of their 1st-degree relatives who had life-ime AUDs (45.8% female, mean age 36.2 years).

Measurements: Persistent AUD, non-abstinent remission and abstinent remission were based on self-report interview data on most recent AUD symptoms and alcohol consumption. Dependent variable was relatives' AUD/remission status. Independent variable was probands' AUD/remission status.

Findings: A total of 34.6% of probands and 20.6% of relatives were abstinent and 11.1% of probands and 22.8% of relatives were in non-abstinent remission. AUD/remission status was correlated significantly in related (r = 0.23, P = 0.0037) but not in unrelated pairs. A significant interaction of probands' abstinent remission with a variable representing related (versus unrelated, P = 0.003) pairs suggested a familial association for abstinent remission. In related pairs, individuals with an abstinent proband were more likely to be abstinent themselves than were individuals whose proband had persistent AUD [relative risk ratio = 3.27, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.56-6.85, P = 0.002]; this association was not significant in unrelated pairs.

Conclusions: The likelihood of abstinent remission among people with alcohol use disorder appears to be more than three times greater for individuals who are related to an abstinent proband versus those related to a proband with persistent alcohol use disorder.

Keywords: AUD; Alcohol dependence; COGA; alcohol use disorders; environmental; familial; genetic; remission; social.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Abstinence*
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation*
  • Family*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Remission Induction