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Risky Alcohol Use in Adolescence: The Role of Genetics (DRD2, SLC6A4) and Coping Motives

Authors

  • Carmen S. van der Zwaluw,

    1. From the Behavioural Science Institute (CSZ, RCMEE), Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands; Swiss Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Problems (EK), Lausanne, Switzerland.
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  • Emmanuel Kuntsche,

    1. From the Behavioural Science Institute (CSZ, RCMEE), Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands; Swiss Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Problems (EK), Lausanne, Switzerland.
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  • Rutger C. M. E. Engels

    1. From the Behavioural Science Institute (CSZ, RCMEE), Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands; Swiss Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Problems (EK), Lausanne, Switzerland.
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Reprint requests: Carmen van der Zwaluw, Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, PO Box 9104, 6500 HE Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Tel.: 31 24 3612803; fax: 31 24 3612776; E-mail: C.vanderZwaluw@bsi.ru.nl

Abstract

Background:  Drinking to cope (i.e., drinking to forget or alleviate negative feelings) has been found to be associated with adolescents’ heavy drinking and alcohol-related problems. Additionally, it is widely accepted that genetic factors are involved in alcohol use and dependence. Studies are only beginning to reveal, however, which specific genotypes are related to drinking behaviors, and it is unknown whether they may interact with coping motives in predicting adolescents’ risky drinking. The aim of this study was to examine relationships between the dopamine D2 receptor gene (DRD2) Taq1A polymorphism (rs1800497), a serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4) polymorphism (5-HTTLPR), coping motives, and adolescents’ binge drinking and alcohol-related problems.

Methods:  Participants in this cross-sectional study were 282 Dutch adolescents (mean age 17.4, 47% men) who had consumed alcohol at least once in their life.

Results:  Coping motives were positively related to both binge drinking and alcohol-related problems, while DRD2 and SLC6A4 genotypes were not. DRD2, but not the SLC6A4 genotype, interacted with coping motives. The link between coping motives and alcohol outcomes was stronger among those carrying the DRD2 risk (A1) allele.

Conclusions:  This study extends the present literature by providing additional insight into the etiological factors of adolescent drinking behavior. An interaction between a vulnerability gene (DRD2) and a cognitive factor (coping drinking) was found to be related to adolescents’ binge drinking and alcohol-related problems.

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