Study identifies genes associated with binge drinking in teens

Underage drinking is a serious threat to both an individual and the society he lives in. However, no research has been able to identify the causes of drinking among teenagers yet. There are times when teens consume large quantities of alcohol in a single session without realizing its potential harmful effects. But it has been observed that apart from curiosity to try new things, factors such as peer pressure, effect of social media, vacillating attitude of Americans toward drinking habits, defiant behavior against parents, and lack of information about the impact of alcohol on the body, are some of the reasons that draw teenagers to indulge in drinking.

When alcohol is consumed over a long period, it can give way to addiction which continues till adulthood. Teens addicted to alcohol not only find it hard to get rid of the habit, but are also plagued by incessant cravings during the recovery process when they opt for it.

A recent study by the University of Sussex found a specific gene that associates impulsive behavior with binge drinking habits in teens, establishing the biological reason behind impulsive behavior of teenagers that pushes them to develop binge drinking habits.

Published in the journal Frontiers in Genetics in April 2016, the study is based on a previous research that focused on addictive behavior. Though previous studies established a link between impulsive behavior and binge drinking tendencies and showed that genetic factors are responsible for addiction, the latest study aimed to examine the genetic tendencies that lead to impulsivity and abuse of alcohol during early years.

Changes in genes linked to binge drinking in teens

In the study, titled “Mouse and Human Genetic Analyses Associate Kalirin with Ventral Striatal Activation during Impulsivity and with Alcohol Misuse,” the scientists adopted a two-step approach. In the first step, the genes linked to impulsivity were identified in mice. The scientists evaluated the ability of the mice to wait to gain a reward, under controlled conditions. The mice which exhibited impulsive behavior lost their reward and all were ranked according to the extent of impulsivity they manifested. The impulsivity values were then correlated in a mouse genetic database and subsequently, human resemblances, i.e., genes with a similar DNA sequence in a human database were identified.

In the next step, the scientists searched for the same genes in human respondents aged nearly 14 years. At the beginning of the study, the teenagers were asked to fill a questionnaire related to consumption of alcohol and drugs in a month prior to the study. They were then made to take part in a test similar to that conducted on the mice, wherein they were required to respond to signals to receive their reward. During the tests, MRI scans were performed on the participants. Scores were allocated to each one of them in accordance with their answers and their levels of impulsive behavior. The genetic profile of the participants were then evaluated for any associations.

The scientists observed that alterations in the gene called KALRN were linked with impulsive behavior and the inclination to binge drink among teens. The findings pave the way for future researches that would allow for the screening of teenagers and help diagnose binge drinking tendencies among them. The prognosis of binge drinking or drug addiction habit in teenagers would help curb addiction even before it commences.

Road to recovery

Addiction to anything is bad. Once addicted, it takes a lot of time to gain complete sobriety. When continued over a long period, addiction can destroy the mental health of a person, apart from posing a risk to his social environment.

If you or your loved one has long-standing or excessive drinking habits, and is looking for certified medical help, you may contact the Florida Alcohol Addiction Helpline for further information on the best alcohol addiction treatment in Florida. You may also contact our 24/7 helpline number 866-220-5381 or chat online to know more about alcohol rehabs in Florida.