Two forms of alcoholism with distinct clinical features and mode of inheritance were first distinguished in the Stockholm Adoption Study. This involved a large sample of children born in Stockholm, Sweden, who were adopted at an early age and reared by nonrelatives. Type 1 alcoholism had adult onset and rapid progression of dependence without criminality, whereas type 2 had teenage onset of recurrent social and legal problems from alcohol abuse.
A replication study was carried out with 577 men and 660 women born in Gothenburg, Sweden, and adopted at an early age by nonrelatives. The genetic and environmental backgrounds of the adoptees were classified by the exact procedures calibrated by discriminant analysis in the original study.
Both type 2 and severe type 1 alcoholism were confirmed as independently heritable forms of alcoholism in male adoptees. The lifetime risk of severe alcoholism was increased 4-fold in adopted men with both genetic and environmental risk factors characteristic of type 1 alcoholism compared with the others (11.4% vs 3.0%). Neither genetic nor environmental risk factors for type 1 alcoholism by themselves were sufficient to cause alcoholism. In contrast, the risk of type 2 alcoholism was increased 6-fold in adopted sons with a type 2 genetic background compared with others, regardless of their postnatal environment (10.7% vs 2.0%). The sons with a type 2 genetic background in the replication sample had no excess of type 1 alcoholism, and vice versa. There was no increased risk of mild abuse in adopted men regardless of their genetic or environmental background.
Type 1 and type 2 alcoholism are clinically distinct forms of alcoholism with causes that are independent but not mutually exclusive.