Faulty Gene Could Be Responsible For Alcohol Addiction

By McCarton Ackerman 12/04/13

Though more research needs to be done, the discovery could have a major impact on alcohol recovery.

This may or may not be Gabrb1
Photo via Shutterstock

Researchers have uncovered a breakthrough in the study of alcoholism by discovering that excessive alcohol consumption is triggered by gene mutation. The study, conducted jointly by five British universities and published in the journal Nature Communications, confirmed that the gene Gabrb1 regulates alcohol consumption, but can lead to a drinking problem when that gene is faulty.

Normal mice in the study showed a preference for a bottle of water over a bottle of diluted alcohol, but those with the faulty gene consumed the alcohol as 85 percent of their daily intake. "It's amazing to think that a small change in the code for just one gene can have such profound effects on complex behaviors like alcohol consumption," said Dr. Quentin Anstee, consultant hepatologist at Newcastle University and joint lead author. The research also stated that the mice drank the alcohol voluntarily, consuming enough wine within a one-hour period to become intoxicated and have difficulty moving. Some of them even willingly worked for their alcohol during this period by pulling a lever to obtain it.

Although more research needs to be done to determine if the gene has the same impact on humans, it could potentially have a major impact in the treatment of alcohol abuse. "There's still a great deal we don't understand about how and why consumption progresses into addiction, but the results of this long-running project suggest that, in some individuals, there may be a genetic component," said Prof. Hugh Perry. "If further research confirms that a similar mechanism is present in humans, it could help us to identify those most at risk of developing an addiction and ensure they receive the most effective treatment."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.