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Editorial |

Alcohol as an Environmental Mortality Hazard

Andreas Heinz, MD, PhD1; Anne Beck, PhD1; Michael A. Rapp, MD, PhD2
[+] Author Affiliations
1Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Campus Mitte, Berlin, Germany
2Social and Preventive Medicine, Area of Excellence Cognitive Sciences, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(6):549-550. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.0399.
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Alcohol is a major environmental hazard, with negative effects on many organs, including the brain, liver, pancreas, and heart.1 It is a leading cause of mortality in industrialized countries.2 Whether the mortality effects of alcohol are due to genetic or environmental effects or a combination of both is poorly understood.

For example, cardiovascular and nearly all of the other alcohol-associated somatic disorders carry their own genetic vulnerability, and there is evidence that genetic variants associated with decreased alcohol intake may also be associated with decreased cardiovascular risk, irrespective of the degree of alcohol consumption.3 Persons with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) may also die because of consequences of comorbid tobacco and illicit drug use, which again carry their own genetic risk factors. Indeed, in patients with AUDs, tobacco-related mortality accounts for up to half of the deaths observed over a 12-year period following alcohol detoxification.4

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