Brain circuits responsible for binge drinking identified

Binge drinking has broken all barriers to become the leading cause of alcohol-related deaths. Heavy alcohol drinkers increase their risk of developing a wide range of deadly diseases. Binge drinking alone costs the U.S. economy nearly $170 billion annually.

A recent research by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill revealed the reasons for a person to go beyond the normal drinking levels. For the first time, the researchers have identified brain circuits that control binge drinking behavior.

Way to prevent heavy drinking

Experiments on mice showed that the two brain areas, including the extended amygdala and the ventral tegmental area, form a functional circuit joined together by neurons that release a compound known as corticotropin releasing factor (CRF). The study indicated that blocking this circuit may prevent a person from indulging into heavy drinking.

Published in the journal Biological Psychiatry in April 2016, the study revealed that any alteration in the CRF region, that also controls binge drinking behavior besides modulating stress and reward system, can contribute toward developing new treatment strategies for people addicted to alcohol.

Previous studies have shown the involvement of the extended amygdala region in mental conditions related to psychological stress and anxiety. And the ventral tegmental region has been found to be associated with reward system of the brain, controlling hunger and compulsive behavior patterns linked to drug abuse and alcoholism.

Lead researcher Todd Thiele of UNC-Chapel Hill’s College of Arts and Sciences, and his colleagues also observed that the CRF neurons got stimulated on coming in contact with alcohol, and subsequently, these neurons directly activated the ventral tegmental area. This clearly suggested that when a person gulps alcohol in a quick succession, CRF neurons in the extended amygdala show vigorous activity and stimulate the ventral tegmental region to get on with drinking, until it takes the shape of a binge.

This groundbreaking study can help researchers find new ways to treat binge drinkers. The study can go a long way in helping people prevent their occasional drinking habit from transitioning into binge drinking.

“If you can stop somebody from binge drinking, you might prevent them from ultimately becoming alcoholics. We know that people who binge drink, especially in their teenage years, are much more likely to become alcoholic-dependent later in life,” said Thiele.

Limit drinking levels to be healthy

Binge drinking has seen an upsurge in the United States in the recent past. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has defined normal drinking limits for both men and women. According to it, men who consume five or more drinks and women who take four or more drinks in about two hours may be involved in binge drinking.

Most of the time, people aren’t aware of the seriousness of binge drinking and exceed limits until their brain stops functioning. Exceeding the limits can be responsible for a wide range of mental and physical problems, such as:

  • Diseases of liver and heart, including increased risk for various types of cancers
  • Frequent injuries due to car crash, falls or other accidents
  • Involvement in violent crimes linked with aggression, sexual assault or domestic violence
  • Increased family problems and broken relationships
  • Alcohol addiction and poisoning, or death

As a first line of treatment, an alcoholic must accept the fact that he or she has a problem. Although it isn’t easy, it’s a necessary step toward the recovery path. The Florida Alcohol Addiction Helpline can guide you to the reputed alcohol treatment centers in Florida. Our experts can assist you with information about alcohol rehab centers in Florida to help you deal with your loved one’s alcohol problem. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-220-5381 or chat online for further information.