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Monday, November 28, 2011

Developmental Changes in Genetic Influences on Alcohol Use and Dependence

Understanding how genetic influences affect alcohol use and dependence necessitates a developmental perspective.

The importance of genetic influences on alcohol use and dependence varies dramatically across development, with environmental influences playing the predominant role early in adolescence and genetic influences assuming increasing importance across adolescence and into young adulthood.

In addition, converging lines of evidence suggest that the genetic predisposition to adult alcohol dependence shows heterotypic continuity and is related to conduct problems much earlier in development.

It is clear that the genetic susceptibility for alcohol use and dependence unfolds through a complex series of interactions with the environment, with evidence that genetic predispositions influence the selection of environments, such as deviant peers, which further elevate risk for alcohol problems, and that the environment can mitigate or augment the expression of genetic predispositions related to substance use.

As genes influencing alcohol dependence are increasingly identified, exciting opportunities exist to integrate these findings with the rich developmental literature in order to map pathways of risk associated with identified genes and their interactions with the environment across development.

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