Is There a Genetic Relationship between Alcoholism and Depression? (Research Update)

By Nurnberger, John I., Jr.; Foroud, Tatiana et al. | Alcohol Research, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Is There a Genetic Relationship between Alcoholism and Depression? (Research Update)


Nurnberger, John I., Jr., Foroud, Tatiana, Flury, Leah, Meyer, Eric, T., Wiegand, Ryan, Alcohol Research


It has long been known that alcoholism and depression tend to occur together and that both disorders may run in families. Researchers participating in the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) have investigated the prevalence of alcoholism and depression in alcoholic participants and their family members. According to Dr. John I. Nurnberger, Jr., and his colleagues, these analyses found that the prevalence of depressive syndrome (i.e., depression that may or may not occur in conjunction with increased drinking) was higher among alcoholics than among nonalcoholics. Moreover, both disorders co-occurred more commonly among family members of people with both disorders than among family members of people with alcoholism alone. (pp. 233-240)

The Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) seeks to identify genes contributing to alcoholism and related traits (i.e., phenotypes), including depression. Among alcoholic subjects the COGA study found an increased prevalence of depressive syndrome (i.e., depression that may or may not occur in conjunction with increased drinking). This combination of alcoholism and depression tends to run in families. Comorbid alcoholism and depression occurred substantially more often in first, degree relatives of COGA participants with alcoholism than in relatives of control participants. Based on these data, COGA investigators defined three phenotypes--"alcoholism," "alcoholism and depression," and "alcoholism or depression"--and analyzed whether these phenotypes were linked to specific chromosomal regions. These analyses found that the "alcoholism or depression" phenotype showed significant evidence for genetic linkage to an area on chromosome 1. This suggests that a gene or genes on chromosome 1 may predispose some people to alcoholism and others to depression (which may be alcohol induced). KEY WORDS: genetic theory of AODU (alcohol and other drug use); AOD dependence; genetic trait; major depression; mood and affect disturbance; comorbidity; phenotype; chromosome; AODR (alcohol and other drug related) genetic markers; prevalence; gender differences; genetic linkage

**********

It is obvious to drinkers that a direct connection exists between alcohol consumption and mood. Alcoholic intoxication commonly produces a "high" with attendant giddiness and lowering of inhibitions. Conversely, hangovers and acute withdrawal typically produce dysphoria, with elements of anxiety and depression mixed with physical malaise. Psychopathological studies have observed that alcoholism and affective disorders (e.g., depression and mania) interact and can coexist; moreover, the vulnerability to both alcoholism and depression can run in families (Merikangas and Gelernter 1990; Merikangas et al. 1994).

Various possible relationships between alcoholism and affective disorders have been postulated (see table 1) (for more information, see Nurnberger and Berrettini 1998; Merikangas and Gelernter 1990). For instance, some patients may use alcohol as a form of self-medication for an affective disorder. In these cases, alcoholism may develop secondarily to the affective disorder. Alternatively, depression may develop as a result of alcoholism; in these cases, alcoholism is the primary disorder and depression is considered an organic mood disorder (i.e., a mood disorder with a physiological cause). Other alternatives are that both alcoholism and affective disorder may develop as the result of a common genetic predisposition or may develop as completely separate illnesses. These different hypotheses about the relationship between alcoholism and affective disorders have different implications for the prevalence of these illnesses in family studies (see table 1). For example, if alcoholism were the primary disorder and depression occurred as a result of it, relatives of alcoholics would be expected to have an increased risk of alcoholism with secondary depression but not of depression alone.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Is There a Genetic Relationship between Alcoholism and Depression? (Research Update)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?