Polygenic Risk for Alcohol Consumption and Multisite Chronic Pain: Associations With Ad Lib Drinking Behavior

Kyle M. White, Jonathan L. Hess, Stephen J. Glatt, Stephen A. Maisto, Michael J. Zvolensky, Joseph W. Ditre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Interrelations between alcohol use disorder and chronic pain have received increasing empirical attention, and several lines of evidence support the possibility of shared genetic liability. However, research on the genetic contributions to the component processes of these complex and potentially overlapping phenotypes remains scarce. The goal of the present study was to test polygenic risk scores (PRSs) for alcohol consumption and multisite chronic pain as predictors of ad lib drinking behavior during an experimental taste test. PRSs were calculated for 209 pain-free, moderate-to-heavy drinkers (57.9% male; 63.6% White). Among White participants, the alcohol and chronic pain PRSs showed nominally significant (ps <.05) positive associations with the volume of alcohol consumed and peak blood alcohol concentration (BAC), respectively. However, associations did not survive correction for multiple comparisons. When stratifying results by experimental condition (between-subjects design: no-pain vs. pain), the alcohol PRS was significantly and negatively associated with the volume of alcohol poured, consumed, and peak BAC among Black participants randomized to the no-pain condition (all false discovery rate [FDR]p <.05). Conversely, the chronic pain PRS was significantly and positively associated with study outcomes among White participants in both the no-pain (alcohol consumed; FDRp =.037) and pain conditions (peak BAC; FDRp =.017). These findings lend partial support to the assertion that alcohol consumption in the laboratory is reflective of drinking behavior in naturalistic settings. This was also the first study to use a pain-related PRS to predict alcohol outcomes, which may be indicative of shared etiology between base and target traits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)933-941
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 8 2022


  • alcohol
  • pain
  • polygenic risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Pharmacology


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