The UK Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (UK-COGA)

  • a website for researchers, volunteers & the public
  • the search for alcoholism genetic vulnerabilities

UK-COGA aims to:

  • discover genes modifying the risk of alcohol dependence, and related problems like depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder, and dissocial (antisocial) personality disorder
  • search for genetic mutations and their effects on proteins
  • by scanning the whole genome and also focusing on specific genes of interest
  • and by examining how drug treatments may affect risk of alcoholism


Is alcoholism a problem?

Tray of Beer
  • in the UK we have a complex relationship with alcohol
  • Most people drink sensibly but increasing numbers of people drinking harmfully
  • Around 7% of the adult population drink so much that they become dependent on alcohol, and have difficulty controlling or stopping their drinking despite the consequences
  • alcohol misuse cost the UK economy £16 billion in 2008 (through NHS costs, criminal justice, and loss of work) -- not to mention the human, family and societal costs
  • understanding how people move from sensible drinking to alcohol dependence is  important research with implications for health, suffering, and the economy

Is alcoholism genetic?

DNA Double Helix
  • alcoholism tends to run in families. Alcoholism is about 50-60% heritable.
  • some of the influences towards alcohol misuse come from societal, parental and family attitudes and behaviours towards alcohol -- so called environmental effects
  • but alcoholism even runs more commonly  in blood relatives adopted away. For example, one study of adopted-away children of alcoholics (thus raised in a different environment) had higher rates of alcoholism -- suggesting a genetic component
  • depression and other psychiatric disorders, like attention deficit disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder (BPD) and personality disorder co-occur commonly with alcoholism
  • whether alcoholism predisposes to psychiatric disorder or vice versa is not yet known

Who are the researchers?