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J Stud Alcohol. 1997 Mar;58(2):141-5.

Assessing the risk for alcoholism among sons of alcoholics.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry (116A), Veterans Affairs Medical Center, La Jolla, San Diego, California, USA.



A low level of response (LR) to alcohol has been shown to predict a high future risk for alcoholism. Studies to date have incorporated both alcoholism family history positive (FHP) and negative (FHN) subjects, but no prospective investigation has evaluated the predictive power of LR among the higher risk FHP individuals alone. If LR can be adequately evaluated without considering FHN controls, future studies of this high risk group can be done more efficiently.


As part of a larger study, at an average of over 8 years after original testing, alcoholic outcomes were evaluated with personal interviews for 133 white sons of alcoholic fathers. The development of alcoholism for men whose LR scores at about age 20 fell into the lower third of intensity was compared to the development of alcoholism for men whose LR scores fell above the median.


The high and low extremes on LR resulted in an 85.0% sensitivity and 58.9% specificity regarding the prediction of future alcoholism in sons of alcoholics. These results remained robust even after controlling for the quantity and frequency of alcohol intake at the time of original testing.


The data indicate that future research on the relationship between LR and the risk for alcoholism in FHPs can be carried out with a single intoxicating dose of alcohol and without FHN controls.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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