Tag Archives: alcohol study

Scientists identify 4 types of drunks – which one are you?

Are you a Hemingway, a Nutty Professor, or a Poppins?? No, that’s not the latest Facebook game (although it’d be really fun to see one implemented), but it’s a classification introduced by researchers at the University of Missouri. Basically, depending on how your personality changes when you start drinking, they’ve defined 4 types: the Hemingways, the Mary Poppins, the Nutty Professors, and the Dr. Hydes.

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“Some individuals ‘‘change’’ more dramatically than others when intoxicated, and the nature and magnitude of these changes can result in harmful outcomes,” they write in the initial part of the abstract. “The primary purpose of this study was to assess the degree to
which levels of sober and drunk personality traits can be grouped into meaningful clusters,” they then add.

Of course, for the study, they used undergrads – 374 undergrads that enjoy their fair share of pints every now and then. They conducted the study because despite all the Buzzfeed-like article that you might read about the “types of drinkers”, there isn’t a single peer-reviewed study on that issue – or at least they couldn’t find it.

So, as it turns out, here are the four clusters they found:

  • The Ernest Hemingway drinker. Ernest Hemingway liked to brag that he could go on drinking for days and still not get drunk – in other words, his personality didn’t change significantly when he wasn’t sober. I’m absolutely thrilled they named this category after him, as Hemingway was a truly spectacular individual (read this article to see just how incredibly awesome a person he was). This was the largest group, with 40% of participants included here.
  • The Mary Poppins drinker. About 14% of participants were included here, and I’d dare say yours truly can also fit. Basically, the Mary Poppins drinker becomes much more friendly and sweet when he’s drunk, talking to more people and engaging more with those around.
  • But on the contrary, the Mr Hyde drinkers reported a tendency of being particularly less responsible, less intellectual, and more hostile when under the influence of alcohol. This was the ‘only cluster that was statistically more likely to experience alcohol consequences, suggesting that individuals in this group not only embody less savoury personality characteristics when drunk, but also incur acute harm from their drinking,’ researchers say.
  • The last one, the Nutty Professor drinker was generally introverted when sober, but became much more extroverted when drunk.  They also tended to report having the most overall discrepancy between their reported sober and drunk traits. But despite the fact that they changed significantly upon alcohol consumption, there was no increased risk of harm associated.

This is still an initial study, on a very particular type of people (undergrads), possibly not representative of the entire population, and over a relatively small number of participants, but it does raise some interesting prospects. Alcohol can be used successfully as a “social lubricant”, and it’s not always associated with increased social risk, but it can also turn people into Mr Hyde – it all depends on your personality. So… which one are you?

You can read the entire study here, for free.

Blue eyes linked to higher levels of alcohol dependence

According to an unusual study conducted by University of Vermont researchers, people with blue eyes may be more likely to become alcoholics – and researchers are trying to figure out why.

Image via Telegraph.

Human eye color is a pretty strange thing – it’s an inherited trait influenced by more than one gene. These genes cause  small changes in the genes themselves and in neighboring genes, and we actually don’t know all the genes responsible for eye color. With ranges from light blue to dark brown, you can tell a lot by a person just by looking at his iris color, perhaps even if he’s more likely to become an alcoholic.

The researchers noticed the link after studying the eye colour of 1,263 European Americans who had been diagnosed with alcohol dependence. They found that on average, people with lighter shades of eye color were more likely to become alcoholics than the ones with brown eyes; individuals with blue eyes actually had the highest rates. Even after correcting for variables such as age, gender and background, the differences still remained.

“This suggests an intriguing possibility – that eye colour can be useful in the clinic for alcohol dependence diagnosis,” one of the lead researchers, Arivis Sulovari, said in a press release.

Of course, the problem here is that correlation doesn’t imply causality – in other words, just because two things happen in common doesn’t mean that one is causing the other – and that’s a major issue. That’s why before jumping to conclusion, researchers want to replicate the results. But even if they do, it still doesn’t imply causality. For that, they need to find a genetic or environmental cause, and they have a hunch it might be genetic.

However, alcoholism is a complex issue.

“These are complex disorders,” said the other lead researcher Dawei Li. The genes we’ve identified over the past two decades “can only explain a small percentage of the genetics part that has been suggested,” he added, “a large number is still missing, is still unknown.”

But even though causality is not established yet, it may still be an important clue.

“Although replication is needed, our findings suggest that eye pigmentation information may be useful in research on AD,” researchers write in their abstract.

Journal Reference: Eye color: A potential indicator of alcohol dependence risk in European Americans. Arvis Sulovari, Henry R. Kranzler, Lindsay A. Farrer, Joel Gelernter and Dawei Li.

Alcohol Ads Lead to Underage Drinking

Well, who would have thought alcohol ads make people drink more ?! A new study has shown that alcohol advertising on television contributes to both underage drinking and binge drinking. According to the research, higher “familiarity” with booze ads “was associated with the subsequent onset of drinking across a range of outcomes of varying severity among adolescents and young adults”.

Image via The Guardian.

It seems like common sense, but a team led by Dr. Susanne Tanski of Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire wanted to back it up with science. They conducted a study on 1600 participants aged 15 to 23, surveyed 2 times: once in 2011 and a second time in 2013.

Out of the participants aged 15-17, 23 percent had seen alcohol ads, as did 23 percent of those aged 18-20 and 26 percent of those aged 20-23. The study didn’t aim to show a direct cause-effect relationship, but instead suggested that the more receptive teens are to alcohol ads, the higher chance they have to start drinking, or to progress from drinking to binge drinking or hazardous drinking – and the more ads they see, the more receptive they become.

The study took into consideration both beer and spirits advertising. Co-author James D. Sargent said:

“It’s very strong evidence that underage drinkers are not only exposed to the television advertising, but they also assimilate the messages. That process moves them forward in their drinking behavior.”

However, not all researchers are convinced.

“There are too many compounding variables to draw a correlation between TV ads and drinking behavior among youths,” said Janina Kean, a substance abuse and addiction expert, and president of the Kent, Conn.-based High Watch Recovery Center.

Indeed, there are many external elements which might interfere with this case – many other things outside of TV advertising – and it’s almost impossible to control for all of them.

“Lack of guidance at home, other family members with alcohol issues, and dysfunctional family relationships are all factors that can contribute to a person’s issues with alcohol, and explain why alcohol-related advertising would have been memorable for such a person,” Kean reasoned.

Alcohol is the most consumed drug among the people in the US, and youngsters alike. In 2013, about 66% of American high school students said they had tried alcohol at least once, nearly 35% percent said they’d drank alcohol in the past 30 days, and nearly 21%t reported recent binge drinking. The Center for Disease Control estimates that in the US, underage drinking takes about 4,500 lives every year, mostly from traffic accidents, but also homicide and suicide.

Journal Reference: Janina Kean, president, High Watch Recovery Center, Kent, Conn.; JAMA Pediatrics, news release, Jan. 19, 2015.

A gene mutation for excessive alcohol drinking found

 

  • Mice in the control group refused to drink alcohol
  • When a certain gene was deactivated, they started preferring alcohol over water
  • Researchers stress that human alcoholism depends much more on environmental and personal factors

Researchers have discovered a gene that regulates alcohol consumption; when this genes becomes faulty, it makes humans more prone to excessive drinking. They have also identified the mechanism underlying this phenomenon. However, it should be kept in mind that this is only a small cog in the great system of biological and psychological machinery that determines the extent to which a person will use, abuse, or become addicted to alcohol.

 

photo credit: AutumnRedux</a

photo credit: AutumnRedux

Normal mice don’t really like alcohol; when given a choice between a bottle of water and a bottle of diluted alcohol, they rarely chose any alcohol at all. The same goes for pretty much all mammals. However, mice with a mutation in a gene called Gabrb1 overwhelmingly preferred drinking alcohol over water – choosing to consume about 85% of their daily fluids with alcohol (about as strong as wine).

Furthermore, researchers showed mice carrying this mutation were willing to work to obtain the alcohol-containing drink by pushing a lever and, unlike normal mice, did this relentlessly over large periods of time. They would then drink until they got intoxicated and could barely coordinate their movements.

The gene has a significant impact in humans as well:

“We know from previous human studies that the GABA system is involved in controlling alcohol intake. Our studies in mice show that a particular subunit of GABAA receptor has a significant effect and most importantly the existence of these mice has allowed our collaborative group to investigate the mechanism involved. This is important when we come to try to modify this process first in mice and then in man.”

However, the team of researchers from five UK universities – Newcastle University, Imperial College London, Sussex University, University College London and University of Dundee – and the MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit at Harwell published their results in Nature Communications, and they stress that human alcoholism depends much more on environmental and personal factors than on genes.

“It’s amazing to think that a small change in the code for just one gene can have such profound effects on complex behaviours like alcohol consumption. We are continuing our work to establish whether the gene has a similar influence in humans, though we know that in people alcoholism is much more complicated as environmental factors come into play. But there is the real potential for this to guide development of better treatments for alcoholism in the future.”

Journal Reference:

Anstee, Q. M. et al. Mutations in the Gabrb1 gene promote alcohol consumption through increased tonic inhibition. Nat. Commun. 4:2816 doi: 10.1038/ncomms3816 (2013).

Alcohol helps the brain remember

The effects alcohol has on our brain are still not perfectly understood, and the general opinion and even some studies are biased because… well, generally speaking, alcohol is bad for you, and we tend to forget that students drink, teachers drink, scientists and artists drink. But according to a study conducted by the Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research at The University of Texas at Austin, it may not be all bad: drinking alcohol causes certain areas of our brain to learn and remember better.

Well not quite... but the picture is just too funny

“Usually, when we talk about learning and memory, we’re talking about conscious memory,” says Morikawa, whose results were published last month in The Journal of Neuroscience. “Alcohol diminishes our ability to hold on to pieces of information like your colleague’s name, or the definition of a word, or where you parked your car this morning. But our subconscious is learning and remembering too, and alcohol may actually increase our capacity to learn, or ‘conditionability,’ at that level.”

Morikawa’s study found that repeated ethanol exposure enhances synapticgo plasticity in a key area in the brain, which basically helps you learn and remember some things better. When you drink alcohol (or take cocaine or heroine, for example), the subconscious is learning to take more and more, and it wants more and more, but it doesn’t stop there. We become more and more receptive to subconscious memories and habits with respect to food, music, even people and social situations.

If you take alcoholics, they aren’t addicted to the pleasure and relief they get with drinking alcohol; it’s the environmental, behavarioral and social changes they want so badly and which trigger dopamine release in the brain.

“People commonly think of dopamine as a happy transmitter, or a pleasure transmitter, but more accurately it’s a learning transmitter,” says Morikawa. “It strengthens those synapses that are active when dopamine is released.”

But hey, don’t go shouting off to your friends that alcohol is good for you; just tell them that… maybe it’s not necessarily as bad as everybody things.