Scientists from Sweden may have found why addiction to alcohol is hard to quit. The team suggests lower levels of protein in the brain could be the reason why addicts are drawn towards alcohol as an alternate award.
Alcohol, The Ultimate Addiction
The researchers of the study suggest that molecular mechanism, which includes lower levels of protein, is the reason why addicts are choosing alcohol. The study revealed that the level of the transporter protein GAT-3, which is in the amygdala area of the brain and is responsible for a person's emotional reaction, is much lower in people who are addicted to alcohol.
The study, which that was published in the journal, Science, used mice as their model to examine the expression of hundreds of genes in the five areas of the brain. By doing this, the researchers found new insights into the human brain and patterns of addiction.
The team discovered that the reduced GAT-3 levels in mice made them prefer sweetened water over alcohol. After the reduction, the team once again gave the mice the option of the sweetened water or alcohol. The researchers found that 15 percent of the rats that were outbred chose alcohol.
"Decreasing the expression of the transporter had a striking effect on the behavior of these rats. Animals that had preferred the sweet taste over alcohol reversed their preference and started choosing alcohol," Eric Augier, the lead researcher of the study, stated.
Further investigation found that the GAT-3 levels in the brain tissue of deceased people who had an alcohol addiction had lower levels of protein than the control individuals.
Alcohol Addiction In America
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol drinking is responsible for over 80,00 death in the United States each year. Excessive alcohol consumption includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, and alcohol consumption by women who are pregnant or under the age of 21-years-old.
The CDC notes that men are more likely to drink alcohol in larger amounts and because of body masses and structure, it would take women a lot longer to break down the alcohol in their bodies.
For women who drink alcohol, excessive drinking can disrupt their menstrual cycles and cause infertility. For men, excessive drinking can lead to infertility, impotence, and the reduction of male secondary sex characteristics including chest and facial hair.
The team of Swedish scientists hopes that this new information can lead to treatment that will improve alcohol dependence.