Doubt cast on gene link to binge-drinking
A liquor industry-backed organisation promoting responsible drinking says a study linking a specific gene to alcoholism is only one part of tackling the problem.
The Tomorrow Project, also known as Cheers!, is supported by the Brewers Association, Distilled Spirits Association and New Zealand Winegrowers, which together represent 1300 businesses.
Research on the gene link was published in the US Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences and found a link between a specific gene and alcoholism.
King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry researcher Gunter Schumann says the gene known as RASGRF-2 increases the likelihood of heavy drinking.
"If people have a genetic variation of the RASGRF-2 gene, alcohol gives them a stronger sense of reward, making them more likely to be heavy drinkers,” he says.
But Tomorrow Project leader Jessica Venning-Bryan says the research is one piece of the puzzle in determining what causes alcoholism.
“It plays a role in building the picture of the multitude of factors that contribute to someone’s likelihood to become a problem drinker,” she says.
Ms Venning-Bryan says a number of genes as well as the RASGRF-2 gene are believed to play to role in predisposing people to addictions. She adds that other factors such as peer approach and family role modelling are also important.
“The determinants of drinking behaviour are complex and we need to take a holistic approach to reducing alcohol related harm.”
For example, she says a 2011 UK study found children who have seen their parents drunk are twice as likely to get drunk repeatedly themselves.
For the gene study, scientists removed the RASGRF-2 gene from mice and then analysed how they reacted to alcohol. It then analysed brain scans of teenage boys who drank.