ST. LOUIS, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say a pattern of genetic markers seems to protect against alcohol problems.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis looked at adults sexually abused as children and at high risk for alcohol problems who did not become alcohol dependent.
The researchers had access to DNA samples of study participants and found a handful of specific sites in the genome that allowed classification into one of two sets of genetic variations -- haplotypes -- known as H1 or H2.
The study, published in Addiction Biology, found those with the H1 haplotype had three times the risk of heavy drinking and alcohol dependence as those who had not been sexually abused, but abuse victims with the H2 haplotype seemed to be protected against the risks.
Lead author Dr. Elliot Nelson and colleagues analyzed data from more than 1,100 people in 476 Australian families in the Nicotine Addiction Genetics project, which also looked at whether participants met the diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence.
Exposure to severe stress early in life increases the risk of alcohol and drug addiction, but the adults sexually abused as children and at high risk for alcohol problems may carry gene variants that protect them from heavy drinking and its effects, Nelson said.