Binge drinking gene too simplistic in explaining alcohol misuse, says Swanswell

04 December 2012

Swanswell believes research suggesting some people have a gene that hard-wires them to binge drink is a simplistic way of explaining the reasons behind alcohol misuse.

The national charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug misuse, is responding to news today that a team from King’s College London found that animals lacking the RASGRF-2 gene had far less desire for alcohol than those with it (reports BBC News).

Scientists carried out brain scans on 663 teenage boys which showed those with a version of the gene had heightened dopamine responses in tests.

When researchers contacted the same group two years later, they found the boys with the ‘culprit’ variation of RASGRF-2, drank more often.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘I think it’s very interesting science but in terms of turning it into a practical tool for everyday use, we’re a long way from that.

This research seems to identify that there may be a certain part of the population who are pre-disposed to feel more pleasure when they use alcohol and therefore pre-disposed to seek out alcohol more but that doesn’t mean that they’re required to do so.

We can still control our behaviour in other ways, which we do in our everyday life. There’s such a wide range of reasons why people turn to us for help and why they are in the situation they are in.

It’s really difficult to stereotype and to say ‘yes there is one reason why people turn to alcohol - here’s the gene, that’s the reason, that’s the cause, if you’ve got it, let’s say you’re an alcoholic now, if you haven’t live your life happily’, I think is too simplistic.

Being dependent on alcohol is a really unpleasant way of leading your life – when people come to us for help, they’re not in a happy situation, they want to change.

Ultimately, there needs to be clearer information out there about alcohol and an un-muddling of mixed messages, so people can make informed decisions about their own drinking and help avoid problems later on.

You don’t have to drink to enjoy yourself – you can still have a good time during the festive season without alcohol.

‘If you’re worried about your drinking or that of someone else, talk to your GP or speak to an organisation such as Swanswell who can help.’

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