Is binge drinking genetic?
Scientists have published findings in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal which point to a genetic variation that can lead to an increase in binge drinking in teens. The gene known as RASGRF-2 plays a crucial role in making people more likely to be heavy drinkers. People drinking alcohol experience activation of the brain’s dopamine system, giving them feelings of pleasure and reward. The research suggests that people with a genetic variation on the RASGRF-2 gene release more dopamine with anticipation of a reward, such as alcohol.
Brain scans of 663 14-year old boys found that those with variations in the RASGRAF-2 gene have more activity in an area of the brain closely linked to the release of dopamine. In order to confirm the findings, the same teens were analyzed at age 16 and those with the gene variation drank more often than those without it. This insight into teens has the potential for greater risk analysis and mitigation of alcohol abuse. However, if parents and educators are aware of a teenager’s susceptibility but not legally able to facilitate a conversation surrounding its risks, they are at a loss for helping him or her overcome the genetic predisposition.