Alcoholism has been a factor in the lives of quite a few people I know – either because they themselves drink too much or family members have a drinking problem. That's why I am always interested in research that gets at the root causes of this devastating disease.
A new study says that researchers have found a gene that plays a critical role in the mechanism by which alcohol stimulate the brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that can make us feel happy.
Researchers at King's College in London say that people who have a specific variation of the RASGRF-2 gene get a stronger sense of reward from alcohol compared to those who do not have the gene. That means that they are at greater risk of becoming heavy drinkers, the researchers say.
The research is a clue to why some people become binge drinkers and others can stop at one or two drinks. The National Institutes of Health defines binge drinking as five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women in a two-hour time frame.
While the study does not definitively prove that this gene leads to binge drinking, it does indicate that some people may be more vulnerable than others because of their brain chemistry.