‘Addiction gene’ may be to blame

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TEENAGERS who binge-drink might have a newly-discovered addiction gene, experts have warned.

A study has found a mutant version of the RASGRF2 gene makes the brain more sensitive to habit-forming rewards such as alcohol. It found that a group of 16-year-olds with the genetic variant drank alcohol more often than those who did not have it.

Lead scientist Professor Gunter Schumann, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, said: “People seek out situations that fulfil their sense of reward and make them happy, so if your brain is wired to find alcohol rewarding, you will seek it out.

“We found that this gene gene plays a crucial role in controlling how alcohol stimulates the brain to release dopamine, a nerve signalling molecule, and hence trigger the feeling of reward.

“So, if people have a genetic variation of the RASGRF2 gene, alcohol gives them a stronger sense of reward, making them more likely to be heavy drinkers.”

The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.