Two Genes for “Binge Drinking” Identified

Scientists at the University of Maryland Medical School and the Medical University Vienna have identified two genes associated with binge drinking, a discovery that may pave the way toward new, more effective treatments of excessive alcohol consumption. The scientists found that manipulating two receptors in the brain, GABA receptors and toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), "caused profound reduction" of binge drinking for two weeks in rodents that had been bred and trained to drink excessively. About 30 percent of Americans who drink do so excessively, and about 75,000 people die each year from the effects of excessive drinking. Current treatments for excessive alcohol drinking include prescription drugs Revia and Campral for controlling cravings. To ease withdrawal symptoms, doctors often prescribe medications such as Valium and Librium that carry their own risks of addiction. Valium and Librium reduce the anxiety alcoholics feel when they stop drinking but do not reduce cravings for alcohol. The new study found that treatments that manipulate both the GABA receptor and TLR4 have the potential to reduce anxiety and control cravings, with little to no risk for addiction, according to lead investigator Dr. Harry June, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
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