A new American study has opined that four relatively simple measures of alcohol consumption are able to "capture all or nearly all of the genetic risk" for alcohol dependence (AD).
Corresponding author for the study Kenneth S. Kendler, Banks Professor of Psychiatry at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, said: "This research has both theoretical and practical implications.
"Do the detailed clinical assessments of AD symptoms - such as tolerance, loss of control, withdrawal, and desire or inability to cut down - provide additional important information about genetic risk above and beyond that obtained from relatively simple consumption-related; measures such as the ones we tested?"
Kendler and his team assessed a lifetime history of AD in 5,073 (2,090 complete pairs and 893 twins whose co-twins did not participate) same-sex adult twins from the Virginia Twin Registry using Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-Fourth Edition criteria against four measures of alcohol consumption at the time of heaviest drinking: drinking frequency, regular quantity, maximum quantity, and drunk frequency.
Kendler said: "We found that four relatively simple measures of alcohol consumption obtained for the time of lifetime heaviest drinking were able to capture all or nearly all of the genetic risk for the DSM-IV diagnosis of alcohol dependence.
"We believe that it would be possible for researchers to obtain these relatively simple self-reported measures for the period of heaviest drinking to index genetic risk rather than the more time consuming and difficult diagnostic assessments of AD."
Talking about the practical implications of the study's findings Kendler said: "They show that considerably simpler measures for the period of heaviest drinking may be able to index the same genetic risk factors that are assessed through structured clinical interviews," he said. "In other words, relatively simple measures of drinking behavior can make the process of risk identification both easier and faster for everyone."
The findings of the research will appear in the June 2010 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.