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Research Points to Test for Alcoholism Risk


"I'm not that interested in the use of beta-endorphin as a marker. We already know, just by taking a history, that the children of alcoholics have between a four- and tenfold risk of developing alcoholism. That's enough of a marker for me to say we should be counseling children of alcoholics and saying that even if you carry some genetic baggage for alcoholism, it's not a fait accompli that you will become alcoholic," says Wand.

Wand believes the power of the findings concerning beta-endorphin lies in its potential to increase the understanding the mechanisms behind alcoholism. He says this study should provoke the government and pharmaceutical companies to pursue drug development to treat alcoholism through the beta-endorphin pathway.

Vital Information:

  • Drinking alcohol triggers the release of a substance called beta-endorphin, which produces feelings of well-being. Researchers think this chemical activity may contribute to the high that drinkers feel from using alcohol.
  • After studying identical and fraternal twins, researchers report one's beta-endorphin response is inherited and may identify people at increased risk of alcoholism.
  • Observers note the study tells more about how the body reacts to alcohol. But beta-endorphins don't tell the whole story about one's risk of alcoholism, and simply asking patients about the disease in their family is an effective way to find people at increased risk.

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