There has been an encouraging development in the area of heredity and its link to addiction. Research carried out by Professor Henri Begleiter, PhD, of the State University of New York, corroborated by other researchers, has discovered a possible marker in the brain waves of people from alcoholic families.
Brain waves were recorded and printed out on an electroencephalogram (EEG). When subjected to a significant sensory stimulus (for instance, a loud sound), most people responded with a characteristic peak in brain waves. This is called the P3 amplitude.
It was noted that the P3 amplitude was significantly lower in alcoholics – even recovering alcoholics who had been sober for up to 10 years. This lowered P3 amplitude has also been discovered in non-alcoholic relatives of alcoholics – including their children. This suggests that this brainwave pattern is inherited and that it may therefore be possible to predict who is or is not at risk of developing addiction.
Begleiter therefore suggests that people at risk inherit a general state of hyper excitability, which drinking alcohol alleviates. However, the relief is only temporary and depends on the consumption of increasing amounts of alcohol over time.