New Study Finds Evidence that Heavy Drinking May Change DNA

string of dna

Ever wonder why you just can’t seem to ignore those alcohol cravings or why your loved one says they want to stop drinking but then can’t? While it has been scientifically proven that addiction changes the way the brain works, a new study from scientists at Rutgers University and Yale University found that heaving drinking behaviors may also trigger long-lasting changes to a person’s DNA that make them crave alcohol even more.

About the Study

The Rutgers-led study, which was first published in December of 2018, focused on two different genes in humans: one of which regulates our biological clock and the other which regulates our stress responses. Scientists at Rutgers and Yale University of Medicine compared people who drank alcohol in varying degrees and discovered that only the genes of the heavy drinkers had been altered. The rate at which the genes created proteins was also reduced. In short, they found that the degree of alcohol intake was directly related to the number of genetic changes.  Meaning, the more alcohol a person drinks, the more genetic changes will occur.

The study also consisted of an experiment in which the drinkers viewed images which were either stress-related, alcohol-related, or neutral. Scientists then evaluated the extent of their desire to drink after being shown the images. Consequently, the results showed the binge drinkers and heavy drinkers had a greater urge to drink alcohol after seeing the images. This shows that the alcohol-induced genetic changes also increase the alcohol cravings a person experiences.1

Why are the key findings of this study important?

It’s easy to overlook data like this and assume it’s not important. However, the senior author of the study, who is also the director of the Endocrine Program in the Department of Animal Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, says these findings are very important for a few different reasons.2

  • The data may help explain the power behind alcohol addiction. Why is alcohol such an addictive substance? And why can’t people more easily overcome it? These are important and relevant questions that can’t fully be answered with one easy explanation. The findings of this study help to explain why alcohol can have such power over a person. They also help prove that treatment for alcohol addiction should be medical and clinical. Comprehensive treatment should address the whole person, not just the symptoms of the addiction itself.
  • It may help us treat and prevent alcoholism in the future. Studies like this are always eye-opening and may be important fuel in the fight against addiction. The more we learn about alcohol and its side effects on our brains and bodies, the better we can treat alcohol addiction and prevent addiction, particularly among at-risk populations.
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    Effectively Treating Alcohol Use Disorder

    Alcoholism, also referred to as alcohol use disorder, is a disease that impacts a person’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. The key findings of this study show the effects of alcohol abuse may run even deeper than we initially thought.

    Although there is no cure for alcoholism, effective treatment is available and can help people successfully learn how to live a life that is free from alcohol abuse. Treatment for alcohol addiction often consists of alcohol detox, residential or outpatient rehab, behavioral therapy, and continued care services. A combination of these treatment methods and services can provide comprehensive and individualized addiction treatment that works, for long-lasting sobriety.

    Alcohol Detox: The First Step to Recovery

    While the warning signs of alcohol addiction may not always be obvious (especially if you’re the one struggling with alcohol abuse), it’s important to be on the lookout for red flags among family members, friends, and other loved ones. If you or someone you care about is struggling with alcohol abuse, the staff at Briarwood can help.

    We offer an individualized medical detox program to help you detox and get through alcohol withdrawal safely and comfortably. We also provide executive detox services in Houston, TX, as we know some people may need additional privacy and discretion while detoxing.

    Quitting alcohol cold turkey can be dangerous or even life-threatening, but with the help of our staff, you can get sober in a comfortable, safe, and private environment. Call Briarwood Detox Center for more information on our personalized alcohol detox program or to enroll today.


    1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/acer.13932
    2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190129081939.htm

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