Polymorphisms of the μ-opioid receptor and dopamine D₄ receptor genes and subjective responses to alcohol in the natural environment. Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Polymorphisms of the mu-opioid receptor (OPRM1) and dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) genes are associated with subjective responses to alcohol and urge to drink under laboratory conditions. This study examined these associations in the natural environment using ecological momentary assessment. Participants were non-treatment-seeking heavy drinkers (n = 112, 52% female, 61% alcohol dependent) who enrolled in a study of naltrexone effects on craving and drinking in the natural environment. Data were culled from 5 consecutive days of drinking reports prior to medication randomization. Analyses revealed that, after drinking, carriers of the Asp40 allele of the OPRM1 gene reported higher overall levels of vigor and lower levels negative mood, as compared to homozygotes for the Asn40 variant. Carriers of the long allele (i.e., >or=7 tandem repeats) of the DRD4 endorsed greater urge to drink than homozygotes for the short allele. Effects of OPRM1 and DRD4 variable-number-of-tandem-repeats genotypes appear to be alcohol dose-dependent. Specifically, carriers of the DRD4-L allele reported slight decreases in urge to drink at higher levels of estimated blood alcohol concentration (eBAC), and Asp40 carriers reported decreases in vigor and increases in negative mood as eBAC rose, as compared to carriers of the major allele for each gene. Self-reported vigor and urge to drink were positively associated with alcohol consumption within the same drinking episode. This study extends findings on subjective intoxication, urge to drink, and their genetic bases from controlled laboratory to naturalistic settings.


  • Ray, Lara A
  • Miranda, Robert
  • Tidey, Jennifer W
  • McGeary, John E
  • MacKillop, James
  • Gwaltney, Chad J
  • Rohsenow, Damaris J
  • Swift, Robert M
  • Monti, Peter M

publication date

  • February 2010