Extension of a typology of alcohol dependence based on relative genetic and environmental loading
Mild, severe, and dyssocial subtypes of alcohol dependence, previously identified among Caucasian men from the Epidemiologic Catchment Area study, were also identified among Caucasian men and women with DSM-IV alcohol dependence from the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (n= 2,703; 1,746 respectively). These subtypes were not identified among African American and Hispanic American men or women with DSM-IV alcohol dependence. Among Caucasians with alcohol dependence, the subtypes were characterized by differential loading on three dimensions: genetic, general environmental, and dyssocial environmental symptom scales developed in a prior twin study. The mild subtype (60% of men and 66% of women) was distinguished by low mean scores on all three scales; the dyssocial subtype (24% of men and 20% of women) by low mean genetic and general environmental scores but high mean dyssocial environmental scores; and the severe subtype (16% of men and 14% of women) by high scores on the genetic and general environmental scales. These subtypes also showed the expected distinctions in clinical characteristics. The severe subtype showed greater comorbid drug dependence and major depression, more treatment seeking, and a higher prevalence of parental alcoholism. The severe subtype also showed significantly greater genetic influence adjusted for overall severity of alcohol dependence (genetic ratio). Only the severe subtype showed a pattern of scale scores and clinical characteristics suggestive of substantial genetic influence. The present study indicates a robustness of the typology originally developed among DSM-III alcohol-dependent Caucasian men by empirical extension of the subtypes to a different sample of Caucasian men and, separately, Caucasian women. The use of this typology may aid in distinguishing between Caucasian alcohol-dependent individuals on the basis of relative genetic influence, enabling genetic, behavioral, and epidemiological investigations to reduce genetic or environmental "noise" and better focus on specific aspects of alcohol dependence.