Social Network Drinking and Family History Contribute Equally to First-Onset Alcohol Dependence in High Risk Adults'

Author(s): McCutcheon V V, Lessov-Schlaggar CN,Steinley D,Bucholz, K K.


Background: Adult alcohol consumption is influenced by peer consumption, but whether peer drinking is associated with first-onset alcohol dependence (AD) in adults after age 30 is unknown.

Methods: 703 adult participants in the St. Louis Epidemiologic Catchment Area Survey (ECA) with no prior history of AD, but with high risk based on previously reported drinking or family history, were re-interviewed 11 years after the last ECA assessment to detect new cases of AD (age at follow-up: M(S.D.)=42.9 (8.2)). Incident AD during the assessment interval was examined in relation to drinking patterns in the social network and history of alcohol problems in parents.

Results: Fifteen percent of the sample had a first-onset of AD; another 19.5% never developed AD but were high-risk drinkers at follow-up. Of those who developed AD, 32.1% were remitted and 67.9% were unremitted (current AD) or unstably remitted (asymptomatic high-risk drinkers). Compared to abstinent or low-risk drinkers who did not develop AD, high-risk drinkers with no AD and unremitted/unstably remitted individuals were 4 times as likely to report moderate drinkers in their networks and remitted individuals were nearly 3 times as likely to report network members in recovery from alcohol problems. Associations of social network drinking with remitted and current AD were similar in strength to those of parental alcohol problems.

Conclusions: Social network drinking patterns are associated with high-risk drinking and with the development of incident AD in adults, with effects equal to that of alcohol problems in both parents.

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