Genetics May Predispose Teens to Binge Drink: Study

Genetics May Predispose Teens to Binge Drinking and Impulsive behavior
Friends toasting success on party

If you have ever wondered why some teenagers have impulsive behavior or easily fall into addiction with drugs and alcohol, the reason may actually be genetics.

According to a new study published in Frontiers in Genetics, a specific gene may predispose teenagers towards impulsive behavior and binge drinking. Researchers from the University of Sussex believe this finding may explain why some teenagers are more susceptible to alcoholism, binge drinking, and drug addiction.

Link Between Impulsive Behavior & Binge Drinking

This newly discovered genetic link between impulsive behavior and teenage binge-drinking may help researchers find more effective treatment options and preventative measures for binge-drinking. This finding may also have implications for other health issues linked to impulsive behavior, such as drug addiction and ADHD.

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While it has previously been known that impulsive behavior is connected to binge drinking, researchers have had difficulty finding particular genes that may be to blame, until now.

In the study, the researchers first looked at mice, measuring their impulsivity and identifying genes that were featured in those which exhibited impulsive behavior. These results were then cross-referenced with a database of human genetic information from teenage subjects. This allowed the researchers to narrow down humane genes.

Then, the researchers studied 1,400 teenagers who had answered a survey about drug and alcohol use. These teenagers were tested for their impulsivity, and the results were compared to their DNA profile.

The researchers found that both mice and teenagers who were impulsive had many similar genes. The researchers found that variations in a gene called KALRN were associated with both impulsive behavior and binge-drinking in teenagers.

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This means that teenagers with this genetic risk factor are more likely to behave impulsively and binge drink. For these teenagers, their genetics may set them up for problems with alcohol and drug addiction, regardless of their upbringing, environment, or socio-economic status.


Sources:
Ford, A., “Genetic link found between bine-drinking teens and impulsivity – University of Sussex study,” University of Sussex web site, May 12, 2016, http://www.sussex.ac.uk/newsandevents/?id=35574.
Pena-Oliver, Y., et al, “Mouse and Human Genetic Analyses Associate Kalirin with Ventral Striatal Activation during Impulsivity and with Alcohol Misuse,” Frontiers in Genetics, April 7, 2016; doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2016.00052.