Genes, environment influence alcohol use among teens

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Washington, July 17 (ANI): Teens' alcohol use and behaviour problems are influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, a new study has found.

"In the past, research on genetic and environmental influences on behavior was often conducted in isolation," said Danielle Dick, assistant professor of psychiatry, psychology, and human and molecular genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University.

"Some scientists were interested in genetic effects, others in environmental effects. We now know that both genetic and environmental influences are important for most behavioral outcomes and our challenge is to understand how they interact.

"Much of the research on environmental influences on alcohol use and behavior problems focuses on the impact of parents and peers.

"While these are clearly critical environmental influences, we have also found that socio-regional, or neighborhood influences, also have big impacts on adolescent behavioral outcomes, and these environmental effects have not received as much attention historically," the expert added.

For the study, Dick and colleagues analyzed long-term data gathered on more than 5,000 twins born in Finland between 1983 and 1987.

The researchers focused on how genetic and environmental factors influenced behaviour problems at age 12 and alcohol use at age 14.

They found that certain environments promoted the expression of a teens' genetic predispositions, while other environments limited gene expression

"There is now converging evidence across a number of different studies that behavioral problems in kids are associated with both concurrent and future alcohol problems," said Dick.

"There is evidence accumulating from genetic studies that behaviour problems may be one of the first signs of an individual at increased susceptibility for developing alcohol problems," the expert added.

An important message from this kind of research is that a person's destiny isn't written in their genes, the authors noted.

"We're not all equally predisposed to develop alcohol or behaviour problems and the environment can be a key factor in whether or not an individual ever develops problems," Dick said.

Results will be published in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View. (ANI)

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