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Keywords:

  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase;
  • African-American;
  • Alcohol Response;
  • Genetics

Background:  Variations in the alleles for the alcohol-metabolizing enzymes have been shown to influence risk for alcohol dependence. One variant, ADH1B*3, is observed almost exclusively in populations of African ancestry and has been shown to be associated with reduced rates of alcohol dependence. We conducted an alcohol challenge study to test whether ADH1B*3 is associated with differences in subjective and physiological response to alcohol.

Method:  We administered a moderate dose of alcohol (0.72 g/kg for males, 0.65 g/kg for females) to a sample of African-American young adults (= 91; ages 21 to 26). Participants were genotyped for ADH1B, as well as additional polymorphisms that might contribute to alcohol response. Breath alcohol concentration, self-reported sedation and stimulation, and pulse rate were assessed prior to alcohol administration and for 2.5 hours following administration.

Results: ADH1B*3 was associated with higher levels of sedation and a sharper increase in pulse rate immediately following alcohol consumption.

Conclusions:  These findings suggest that the lower rates of alcohol dependence in those with ADH1B*3 alleles may be because of differences in alcohol response, particularly increased sedation.