While going out in your 20’s for some people can sometimes entitle drinking benders with your closest friends and overindulging a little too often to make up for the time you spent sober can be a common situation, scientists may have discovered why some people are more prone to binge drinking more than others.
However, scientists are now claiming that those who engage in the bad habit could actually be genetically predisposed to do so. The scientists originally built their study on previous research on addictive behaviour. While it is already known that there is a link between impulsive behaviour and a lack of control in drug and alcohol use and is also known that genetic factors contribute to these addictions, it seems that the science behind how alcohol hooks the brain into wanting more and more has been questionable for some time now. Although, previous research has stated that it causes the neurons in a region called the ventral tegmental area (VTA) release dopamine, which is labelled as the brain’s “reward chemical.”
According to researchers for the Centre for Alcohol Research in Epigenetics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, they have now identified a channel in the VTA, called KCNK13, that is blocked by alcohol and can as a result cause neurons to become hyperactive and release more dopamine. During the study, the scientists involved found that some people naturally have less of the KCNK13 channel, meaning that those particular type of people need to drink more alcohol to feel the same level of pleasure as someone who would drink less but feel the effects faster, and in-turn could lead to an individual having an increased predisposition to binge drink.
The study, which was recently published in the journal Neuropharmacology, used mice in a range of experiments to test the theory at hand. In one circumstance during the experiment, the scientists involved genetically reduced the KCNK13 channel in the mice’s VTAs by a total of 15 percent compared to normal mice. The results showed that the KCNK13-deprived mice drank 20–30 percent more alcohol than the normal mice.
Professor Brodie said: “We believe mice with less KCNK13 in the VTA drank more alcohol in order to achieve the same reward from alcohol as normal mice.” He continued, stating that this was “presumably because alcohol was triggering the release of less dopamine in their brains”.
However, the scientists admit that they “don’t know” exactly how much more alcohol a person with reduced KCNK13 expression would need to drink.
Another test was shortly conducted by the research team and observed that the neuronal response to alcohol in the VTA region for mice with less KCNK13 compared to normal mice. Neurons of the genetically modified mice were shockingly 50 percent less responsive to alcohol than those of the normal mice.
Following the results, the research suggests that people may genetically have more or less of this channel in the rewards centre of their brain, and that may predispose a percentage of the population to drink more alcohol. Due to the new understanding, the discovery could prove to be helpful in a number of ways when it comes to treating alcoholism and the future studies conducted on the subject.
According to the NHS, UK, researchers on the subject have defined “binge drinking” as consuming more than six units of alcohol in a single session for both men and women. These figures generally equate to two to three standard glasses of 13 percent wine or the same number of pints of four percent strength beer. In order to safely reduce your health risk from drinking too often or binge drinking, the NHS suggests individuals should limit how much they drink on any single occasion. Officials have also suggested that individuals begin drinking more slowly and also doing so while eating, as well as drinking alot of water between alcoholic drinks.