Scientists believe that whether or not we binge drink may be down to the connections in our brains.
A study carried out in the US claims to have found a “functional circuit” linking two areas of the brain, which could fuel binge drinking. The research suggests that when someone has an alcoholic drink, this circuit turns on and causes a feedback loop encouraging the person to consume more and more.
The two areas of the brain – the extended amygdala and the ventral tegmental area (VTA) – have previously been thought to be involved in binge drinking. But the scientists from the University of North Carolina used experiments with mice to discover these regions were linked by long projection neurons.
The study, published in Biological Psychiatry, showed that drinking alcohol activated the extended amydala, which becomes active at times of anxiety and stress. This then triggered the long projection neurons to produce a chemical which activates the VTA, which behaves as a reward system for the brain.
The VTA makes the drinker feel satisfied which encourages them to have more alcohol, which starts the whole cycle again.
Findings could help develop new treatments
The research could now be used to develop treatments which interrupt this circuit in the brain to try and tackle alcohol dependence and binge drinking.
The study’s senior author Dr Todd Thiele, a behavioural neuroscientist at UNC, said: “It’s very important that we continue to try to identify alternative targets for treating alcohol use disorders. If you can stop somebody from binge drinking, you might prevent them from ultimately becoming alcoholics.
“We know that people who binge drink, especially in their teenage years, are much more likely to become alcoholic-dependent later in life.”
Binge drinking can be a real cause for concern for employers with staff turning up for work still under the influence of alcohol or suffering the effects of a hangover. While many people may only indulge in binge drinking at the weekend or on holiday, for others it becomes part of their normal lifestyle and can impact on their ability to do their job.
AlphaBiolabs offers workplace alcohol testing so bosses can identify employees who may be abusing alcohol and have a dependence which needs treatment. It can also be useful for checking whether alcohol has played a part in an accident at work.
Our staff can carry out both urine and breath tests on workers with a dedicated sample collection team which visits companies at their premises.