Scientists discover why some people cannot 'hold their drink'

A study has found a link between a genetic mutation and behaving particularly recklessly after drinking alcohol

Some people are genetically predisposed to reckless or impulsive behaviour when under the influence of alcohol, scientists have found.

A genetic mutation has been linked with impulsivity – especially when drunk – in a study of a gene responsible for a receptor protein in the brain needed by the neurotransmitter serotonin 2b, they said.

The discovery could account for why some people cannot “hold their drink” and are prone to erratic behaviour even after consuming a relatively small quantity of alcohol, the researchers said.

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“The results also indicate that persons with this mutation are more impulsive by nature even when sober, and they are more likely to struggle with self-control or mood disorders,” said Roope Tikkanen, a psychiatrist at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

The role of the serotonin 2b receptor protein is not fully understood although previous research has linked it with impulsive behaviour. The latest study showed that the mutation in the gene is found in about 2.2 per cent of the Finnish population, which means that about 100,000 Finns are carriers.

The study, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, could lead to drugs or treatments for severe impulsive behaviour, or genetic tests that could warn carriers about the dangers of drinking alcohol, the researchers said.

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