Healthy living * Mental wellbeing

Gene found that makes you drunk faster

Gene that gets you drunk faster found Could lead to treatment for alcoholism

A gene that makes people get drunk faster than others has been found. As many as 1 in 5 of us possess a gene called CYP2E1, which instructs the body to make an enzyme that breaks down alcohol.

People with this gene will tend to feel the effects of alcohol much quicker than others. This is interesting because previous research has shown that a strong reaction to alcohol makes a person less likely to become an alcoholic.

This raises the possibility that drugs could be created to stimulate the effect of the enzyme to sensitise people to alcohol before an evening's drinking - or even sober them up when they have had one too many, the researchers said.

About the study

Scientists investigated the genetic history of around 230 college student siblings who had one alcoholic parent but were not alcoholics themselves.

The students were given doses of alcohol equivalent to three average sized drinks. Their mental state was then assessed at regular intervals. Testing the students genetic make-up showed that there was a link between the effects of the alcohol and the presence of the CYP2E1 gene.

This may be because normally alcohol is processed by another enzyme, which works in the liver, whereas the CYP2E1 gene operates in the brain.

Commenting on the results, study author Professor Kirk Wilhelmsen said: "We have found a gene that protects against alcoholism, and on top of that, has a very strong effect."

But he also cautioned that the study is not the full story: "Alcoholism is a very complex disease, and there are lots of complicated reasons why people drink. This may be just one of the reasons."

This article was published on Wed 20 October 2010

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