Although alcohol use is pervasive in today’s society, only a fragment of individuals who drink develop addictions or alcohol use disorders. It has long been a biological mystery as to why some individuals are more apt to develop problems with drinking, while others do not. Most often, research points to nature and nurture as both being contributing factors to the development of an addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Brain Circuits and Drinking Behaviors in Mice
Alcohol use disorder is a chronic brain disease characterized by compulsive drinking and often associated with negative emotions like depression. Since previous research on addiction mainly looked at the brain after the disease developed, a recent study focused on discovering the brain circuits that are responsible for the development of habitual drinking in the first place. Furthermore, for the first time, scientists found a brain circuit that accurately predicts the development of compulsive alcohol drinking in mice weeks before the behavior starts.
Predicting Drinking Habits Based on Brain Activity
The research found that there is a brain circuit that controls alcohol drinking behavior in mice, and can be a biomarker for foreseeing the progression of problematic drinking in the future. A biomarker is a measurable substance inside of an organism that indicates an observable trend. The researchers found that they could predict which mice would become compulsive drinkers based on brain activity during the first time they drank. Therefore, this research could help us understand human binge drinking and addiction in the future.
Low, High and Compulsive Drinkers
Among the three groups of mice, there were low drinkers, high drinkers, and compulsive drinkers. The study used bitter tastes added to alcohol as a negative consequence of drinking. They found that the compulsive drinkers’ group would continue to drink despite the addition of the bitter taste in the alcohol, while the low and high drinkers would not continue to drink. Analysis of this research suggests that compulsive drinking is, in fact, biological. Finding that the development of obsessive alcohol drinking is related to communication patterns between the brain and that this brain circuit can predict future alcohol use disorders is important for researchers studying addiction. It means that there could be a way to control this pathway and turn the brain circuit on or off, thereby eliminating the development of compulsive drinking habits.
In the future, we may be able to control obsessive drinking behaviors and possibly reduce or even stop them. Research is continuously adding knowledge to the issue of addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. New findings are constantly changing the ways we approach treatment and recovery. At Fort Behavioral Health, we value this research and use new findings to refine our treatment program. We know that drug and/or alcohol use is often a bandaid to deeper struggles. Our approach to addiction treatment begins by identifying the fundamental issues of your substance use disorder. Together, we can achieve successful, long-term recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, call us today at 844.332.1807.