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Alcohol Dependence Linked to Age at First Drink

A genetic predisposition to alcohol dependence may kick into gear when kids start drinking at an early age, researchers said.

Heritable influences on alcohol dependence increased with decreasing age-at-first-drink, and were considerably greater in those who reported imbibing before they were 13, Arpana Agrawal, PhD, of Washington University in St. Louis, and colleagues reported online in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Drinking at an early age may create an environment where individuals can more easily transition from normative to problematic drinking," Agrawal said. "[Or, it] may induce changes in the highly sensitive adolescent brain, which may also modify an individual's subsequent genetic vulnerability to alcohol dependence."

The researchers found that risk for alcohol dependence increased with decreasing age-at-first-drink, and that heritable influences on alcohol dependence were considerably larger in those who reported being under 13 when they first started drinking.

Source: MedPage Today