Childhood risk factors for developing substance dependence

Oct 21, 2009

There is ample evidence for the genetic influence of alcohol dependence, and ongoing studies are actively looking for specific genes that may confer this increased susceptibility. In addition, while it is well-known that individual risk is increased with the number of relatives with alcohol dependence, scientists have not been in a position to identify who among these individuals might have greater or lesser risk.

Biological Psychiatry is now publishing an article in which researchers evaluated and identified childhood risk factors for the development of future substance use disorders (SUD).

Dr. Shirley Hill and her colleagues recruited children with either high or low familial risk for developing and followed them annually over an eleven-year span. During this time, they repeatedly evaluated a series of thirteen predictors that are thought to influence familial risk, including educational achievement scores, personality variables, self-esteem, and anxiety, along with specific neurobiological variables (P300 amplitude, a brain neuroelectric potential, and postural body sway).

They found that children with increased body sway and reduced P300 amplitude had an 8-fold increase in their likelihood of developing a substance use disorder by young adulthood, indicating that neurobiological variables are among the most important in predicting outcome. "The P300 is a brain signal that is associated with the significance of events in our environment and may reflect an individual's ability to make optimal use of such information to guide future behavior. It is both interesting and important that the long-term risk for developing alcohol dependence can be connected to this relatively basic feature of brain wiring," explained Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

Dr. Hill commented that these results are important "in showing that risk markers for alcohol dependence and other substance use disorders can be identified long before individuals develop symptoms of these disorders. Better and earlier identification of those at highest risk makes it possible to develop targeted intervention/prevention efforts for these children, possibly enabling them to avoid [this] outcome." In addition, uncovering these childhood risk markers aids in the search for genes associated with the development of substance use disorders.

More information: The article is "Childhood Risk Factors for Young Adult Substance Dependence Outcome in Offspring from Multiplex Alcohol Dependence Families: A Prospective Study" by Shirley Y. Hill, Stuart R. Steinhauer, Jeannette Locke-Wellman, and Richard Ulrich. The authors are affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Steinhauer is also affiliated with the Veterans Affairs (VA) Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The article appears in , Volume 66, Issue 8 (October 15, 2009), published by Elsevier.

Source: Elsevier

Explore further: Mothers don't speak so clearly to their babies

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mouse genes guide search for human anxiety disorder genes

Oct 23, 2008

We are all familiar with the question - "Are you a man or a mouse?" What if the answer is "a little of both"? Because of the power of molecular genetics research in animals and the maturation of animal models, the path ...

Recommended for you

Mothers don't speak so clearly to their babies

Jan 23, 2015

People have a distinctive way of talking to babies and small children: We speak more slowly, using a sing-song voice, and tend to use cutesy words like "tummy". While we might be inclined to think that we ...

Explainer: What is sexual fluidity?

Jan 23, 2015

Sexual preferences are not set in stone and can change over time, often depending on the immediate situation the individual is in. This has been described as sexual fluidity. For example, if someone identifies as heterosexual but th ...

Lucky charms: When are superstitions used most?

Jan 23, 2015

It might be a lucky pair of socks, or a piece of jewelry; whatever the item, many people turn to a superstition or lucky charm to help achieve a goal. For instance, you used a specific avatar to win a game and now you see ...

Low-income boys fare worse in wealth's shadow

Jan 22, 2015

Low-income boys fare worse, not better, when they grow up alongside more affluent neighbors, according to new findings from Duke University. In fact, the greater the economic gap between the boys and their neighbors, the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.