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A. Alcoholism and Drinking Capacity

Narrator: This is Science Today. Children of alcoholics are four times more likely than other people to become alcoholics themselves. Psychiatrist Mark Schuckit of the University of California, San Diego wondered exactly what's inherited that might encourage alcoholism. His alcoholic patients told him that as youngsters, drinking didn't affect them much.

Schuckit: That early in their drinking careers, like when they were in their early teens or mid-teens or late teens, most people who went on to develop alcoholism were telling me, gee, they were really proud of how much alcohol they could consume, and how they could drink everybody else under the table.

Narrator: Schuckit tested 220 sons of alcoholics against 220 sons of non-alcoholics to see how sensitive they were to alcohol.

Schuckit: And we found that about 40 percent of the sons of alcoholics showed very low levels of response to alcohol. And the same was true for perhaps 5 to 10 percent of the sons of non-alcoholics.

Narrator: And ten years later, sons of alcoholics who weren't sensitive to alcohol were four times more likely to become alcoholics themselves. For Science Today, I'm Steve Tokar.