Researchers have uncovered a genetic factor that could predispose
certain youths to binge drinking, according to the National Institute
on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
College students with a particular variant of the serotonin-transporter
gene (5-HTT) drank more alcohol per occasion, drank more often
just to get drunk, and were more likely to engage in binge drinking
than students without the variant. The research was based on interviews
with 262 college students, ages 17 to 23, about their alcohol
consumption. The team of scientists then analysed the genetic
profiles of the participants. The 5-HTT gene is involved in recycling
the chemical serotonin after it is secreted into the synapse of
a cell. Rather than having one long and one short variant of the
serotonin transporter gene, study participants found to be predisposed
to harmful drinking behaviour had duplicate copies of the short
version.. "This research provides important new evidence that
the risk of developing a maladaptive pattern of alcohol consumption
is influenced by genetically determined neurobiological differences
that exert their effects during young adulthood," said Ting-Kai
Li, M.D., director of NIAAA. .
Source: Herman AI et al. SEROTONIN TRANSPORTER PROMOTER POLYMORPHISM
AND DIFFERENCES IN ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION BEHAVIOUR IN A COLLEGE
STUDENT POPULATION. Alcohol and Alcoholism 2003;38:446-9.