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Study Explores Genetic Influence In Depression And Addiction

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Study Explores Genetic Influence In Depression And Addiction

Wellington, Nov 1 NZPA - More than half of people with depression and alcohol addiction -- two of New Zealand's most common mental illnesses -- are likely to have immediate relatives suffering from the same disorders, researchers say.

University of Otago researchers are now examining the role of genes in the country's largest study to date on treating these two mental illnesses.

The research found 58 per cent of participants have immediate relatives (mother, father, sibling or adult child) with depression and alcohol addiction pointing to a likely genetic connection, investigator Simon Adamson, based in Christchurch, said today.

"The two conditions are often treated in isolation, despite tens of thousands of New Zealanders suffering from both illnesses."

This was the first time in New Zealand that extensive data on demographics, genetics and reaction to medication was being gathered on people with both these common illnesses.

It was also a leading-edge study internationally, Dr Adamson said.

"Depression is the 'common cold' of mental illness and alcohol is the most widely-abused substance.

"One in five New Zealand adults experiences a mood disorder at some time in their lives and one in eight has a substance use disorder."

In alcohol and drug treatment settings, over half were alcohol dependent and a third had a current mood disorder, Dr Adamson.

The Team (Treatment Evaluation for Alcohol and Mood) Study will treat more than 150 people from around the country with the anti-craving drug Naltrexone as well as anti-depressants for 12 weeks, with counselling also provided for a further 12 weeks.

Researchers have just done an initial analysis of data from the first 100 participants.

From that analysis they identified the strong genetic disposition between depression and alcohol addiction.

Participants were most likely to identify their mother as having experienced depression and their father as having experienced an alcohol or other drug problem.

Families with higher rates of one disorder usually also experienced high rates of the other, Dr Adamson said.

Geneticists would examine the influence of an individual's genes on how they responded to treatment.

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