Genetic Counseling for Alcohol Addiction: Assessing Perceptions and Potential Utility in Individuals with Lived Experience and Their Family Members

Kalb, F. M.; Vincent, V.; Herzog, T.; Austin, J.

J Genet Couns. 2017 Feb 9

Abstract

Though addictions to substances including alcohol are highly heritable, there have been no studies regarding the possible applicability of genetic counseling to this set of conditions. Adults (>/=18 years old) with a personal and/or family history of alcohol addiction were recruited to participate in an online survey-based study comprising 43 questions about beliefs/concern about recurrence risk and etiology of alcohol addiction and its impact on childbearing decisions, and perceptions of potential utility of genetic counseling for alcohol addiction. We applied primarily descriptive statistics, but also tested the hypotheses that perceiving genetic counseling to be useful would be associated with: 1) increasing importance attributed to genetics in the etiology of alcohol addiction, and 2) greater concern about recurrence of alcohol addiction (in self and/or children). Overall, the 113 participants recognized the multifactorial nature of alcohol addiction but reported a wide range of estimated recurrence risks for first-degree relatives. Overall, 62% perceived genetic counseling for alcohol addiction to be potentially beneficial. Participants were more likely to perceive a benefit from genetic counseling if they were concerned about recurrence for themselves (p = .021) or perceived genetics to be etiologically important in alcohol addiction (p = .024). Future studies are warranted to evaluate the outcomes of genetic counseling for addictions with respect to patient understanding, lifestyle modifications and psychological adaptation.

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