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Gene may boost effects of peer pressure

Some teens show DNA-related sensitivity to substance use levels at school

10:15am, August 21, 2012

All too often, high school students have to decide whether to join in on gulping down booze with the cool kids or lighting up a cigarette with parking-lot rebels. A new study suggests that genetics plays a role in the likelihood that some teens will succumb to this kind of peer pressure.

Adolescents generally report drinking and smoking a lot in schools with high levels of such behavior, and doing so relatively infrequently in schools with low levels of substance use. These trends were stronger in teens with two copies of a short version of a gene called 5HTT than peers with two long versions, sociologist Jonathan Daw of the University of Colorado Boulder reported August 18 at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting in Denver.

Teens who had inherited one long and one short gene reported rates of alcohol and cigarette use that fell in between those of the other two groups, regardless of how much substance use occurred at their schools, Daw and hi

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