Alcohol dependence and psychological disorders share genetic links

The risk of alcohol dependence is the result of many genetic variants.


The risk to alcohol dependence (AD) is heritable, however little is thought about its complex polygenic architecture or its genetic association with other disorders. A new study by the Yale scientists shows that alcohol dependence can lead to the risk of psychiatric disorders and other drug use.

Genome-wide data on 14,904 individuals with the AD and 37,944 controls from 28 case-control and family-based studies were meta-analyzed, stratified by genetic ancestry. Significant genetic correlations were observed with 17 phenotypes, including schizophrenia, attention deficit–hyperactivity disorder, depression, and use of cigarettes and cannabis.

Co-corresponding author Joel Gelernter said, “There were genetic links both to other psychiatric disorders, such as depression, and to use of cigarettes and other drugs like cannabis. As we study larger numbers of people, we expect to be able to determine at least to some extent how much of this correlation, or shared risk, is attributable to alcoholism, and how much may be the consequence of these other disorders.”

The outcomes of the study confirmed that the risk of alcohol dependence is the result of many genetic variants and that a single gene involving alcohol metabolism plays a significant role in people of both European and African ancestries.

The study is published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.


See stories of the future in your inbox each morning.