Binge drinking is responsible for over half of all alcohol-related deaths and results in significant health and economic costs to individuals and society. Knowledge of genetic aspects of this behavior, particularly as it emerges in young adulthood, could lead to improved treatment and prevention programs.
We have focused on the association of variation in neuronal nicotinic receptor subunit genes (CHRNs) in a cohort of 702 Hispanic and non-Hispanic White young adults who are part of the Social and Emotional Contexts of Adolescent Smoking Patterns (SECASP) study. Fifty-five single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) covering the variation in 5 CHRNs (CHRNA4, CHRNB2, CHRNA2, CHRNB3A6, and CHRNA5A3B4) were studied.
Frequency of binge drinking and other correlated alcohol consumption measures were significantly associated with SNPs in CHRNA4 (p-values ranged from 0.0003 to 0.02), but not with SNPs in other CHRNs. This association was independent of smoking status in our cohort.
Variants in CHRNA4 may contribute to risk of binge drinking in young adults in this cohort. Results will need to be confirmed in independent samples.