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State of the Art in Genetics of Addiction: A Joint Statement

Adoption Date:
April 1, 2007

Public Policy Statement on the State of the Art in Genetics of Addiction, with Particular Emphasis on Genetic Markers for Alcoholism: A Joint Statement of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence


**Note: This historical policy statement is available as part of ASAM's Policy Archives, but it is no longer considered current ASAM policy. Please contact ASAM's advocacy staff at advocacy@asam.org for questions related to ASAM's position on this topic.


While it is clear that genetics plays an important role in the spectrum of drinking behaviors, existing studies on alcohol dependence (alcoholism) show that it is a complex disease involving both genetic and environmental variables. The scientific consensus at present is that there are multiple neurotransmitters and multiple genes which influence the responses to alcohol, the manifestations of alcohol dependence, and the risk for developing the disease.

There currently are conflicting studies on the role of various genes. As such tests are in the process of development, a number of serious issues should be addressed. These include moral, ethical, and practical implications of testing, including understanding the use of the information and the potential negative implications of such testing.

Currently, the single best predictor for risk for developing alcohol dependence is a male with a positive (particularly multi-generational) family history of male alcoholism. A positive genetic test for such a person would add little to help prevent the development of the disease and could provide misleading information in those found to be negative (as there is no good evidence they are not at increased risk). Data regarding genetic-related increased risk for females are even more limited.


1. Based on the existing evidence, NCADD and ASAM conclude that a test for any single gene cannot accurately describe the risk for developing alcohol dependence.

2. The organizations urge a) further research on the role of individual genes as genetic markers, and b) evaluation of the broad privacy and ethical implications of using genetic testing as markers for alcoholism c) continuing exploration into the role of environmental factors, including their interaction with genetic factors, in the development of alcoholism.