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Keywords:

  • Alcohol;
  • Sensitivity;
  • Gene;
  • Phenotype;
  • OPRM1

Background: Recent research has implicated the endogenous opioid system in the development of alcohol use disorders. The A118G polymorphism of the OPRM1 gene has been shown to confer functional differences to μ-opioid receptors, such that the G variant binds β-endorphin three times more strongly than the A variant. The goal of this study was to test whether the A118G polymorphism is associated with sensitivity to the effects of alcohol.

Methods: Participants who were either homozygous for the A allele (n= 23) or heterozygous (n= 15) received intravenous doses of alcohol designed to reach three target levels of breath alcohol concentration: 0.02, 0.04, and 0.06. The testing procedure consisted of measures of subjective intoxication, stimulation, sedation, and mood states at baseline and at each of the three target breath alcohol concentrations.

Results: The results suggested that individuals with the G allele reported higher subjective feelings of intoxication, stimulation, sedation, and happiness across trials as compared with participants with the A allele. Furthermore, participants with the G allele were almost three times more likely to report a positive family history of alcohol use disorders than participants with the A allele.

Conclusions: These findings may help to explain previous research suggesting that naltrexone is more effective among individuals with the G allele. A medication that reduces feelings of euphoria after alcohol consumption may be more successful among individuals with a genetic predisposition to greater feelings of euphoria after consuming alcohol.