Background: Research has shown that subjects with a family history positive (FHP) of alcoholism are at increased risk for alcoholism and that this group reacts differently to alcohol than family history negative (FHN) subjects. These different levels of sensitivity may make FHP persons more likely to consume alcohol. Here, we tested the hypothesis that subjects FHP for type 1 alcoholism (according to Cloninger) are more sensitive than control subjects to the stimulative, properties of alcohol following a single moderate dose of alcohol.
Methods: Fifty-one healthy men and women (22 FHP and 29 FHN) participated in 2 laboratory sessions, in which they consumed a beverage containing ethanol (0.6 g/kg in juice) or placebo (juice alone) in a randomized order. Primary dependent measures were self-report questionnaires of mood states.
Results: Subjects with family history of type 1 alcoholism showed increased stimulative responses and an elevated positive mood state after ethanol compared to controls.
Conclusions: At this moderate dose, ethanol increased stimulative subjective responses in individuals who were “family history positive.” This enhanced sensitivity could motivate to exaggerated drinking and thereby increase the risk for developing alcoholism.