Alcoholism is a multigenic trait with important non-genetic determinants. Studies with genetic animal models of susceptibility to several of alcohol's effects suggest that several genes contributing modest effects on susceptibility (Quantitative Trait Loci, or QTLs) are important. A new technique of QTL gene mapping has allowed the identification of the location in mouse genome of several such QTLs. The method is described, and the locations of QTLs affecting the acute alcohol withdrawal reaction are described as an example of the method. Verification of these QTLs in ancillary studies is described and the strengths, limitations, and future directions to be pursued are discussed. QTL mapping is a promising method for identifying genes in rodents with the hope of directly extrapolating the results to the human genome. This review is based on a paper presented at the First International Congress of the Latin American Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism, Santiago, Chile, November 1994.