Getting together with a group of buddies over the weekend to knock back a few beers and chase girls is a staple among the youngbloods in many cultures. It is one of those events that begins a bit sloppy in a man’s early 20s but eventually progresses into more mature territory within a decade or so. This is when most guys become professional drinkers; they learn that the key to engaging in the ways of the social drunkard is moderation and not dancing around the cocktail menu like the Booze Traveler.
But there is that one dude in every group who never really graduates to the next level. Although this cat is not quite considered an alcoholic — he doesn’t drink much if at all on a daily basis — his inability to pace himself once he gets that first drink in his belly is beyond alarming. It gets to the point where nobody in the crew wants to hang with this burdensome boozehound past a certain hour of the night because they have no interest in listening to his loud-mouth ramblings and conspiracy theories, preventing fights and watching him piss himself around last call. No sirree, hanging with this clown shoe spectacle of inebriation is the complete opposite of a good time. This is why most hardcore alchy’s drink alone. Fucking, nobody in their right mind can stand to be around them.
Fortunately, science may have discovered a reason why some people can drink and maintain a level of civility while others continue to pour it on until they are stumbling, slobbering pieces of barroom trash.
It turns out that people with a binge drinking mentality are not necessarily full-throttle degenerates with an inability to control themselves. Some of the latest research on the subject finds that binge drinkers are just wired differently than the average person, and they need more alcohol to achieve the desired effect. It is a discovery that could eventually lead to more effective therapies for alcoholism, according to a report published in the latest journal Neuropharmacology.
Alcohol is a very clever drug. It has a way of tickling the receptors in the brain that release the body’s natural, feel-good substance known as dopamine. Once booze gets involved, it starts pumping a steady flow of this so-called “pleasure chemical,” and it instinctively brings most humans to have another drink and maybe another in the quest for higher levels of fun and gratification.
Specifically, the part of the brain impacted the most by alcohol is called the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Until now, the scientific community wasn’t entirely sure just how much this pathway was responsible for inflating the brain with dopamine. Without going full-blown science geek here, let’s just say there is a potassium channel in the VTA (called KCNK13) that depending on its prevalence can hinder dopamine production and lead a person to engage in binge drinking behavior.
“If someone has naturally lower levels of this channel, then in order to produce the pleasurable effects of alcohol, that person would have to drink much more, and may be at higher risk for binge drinking disorder,” lead study author Mark Brodie, professor of physiology and biophysics in the UIC College of Medicine, told Forbes.
This means there could come a day when science concocts a medication that can control binge drinking. But something as life-changing as an effective anti-alcoholism pill is a long ways from hitting the pharmaceutical market. The study is still in animal trials, so much more research is needed to see how this all applies to the human brain.
But it is reassuring that science may someday have a reliable therapy for lushes who are powerless against the bottle. Not only could this development save friendships, but it could also save lives.
Some of the latest data shows that even the smallest amounts of booze can tax the body enough to bring on beer cancer and cirrhosis of the liver. Nearly 88,000 people die every year from overzealous drinking habits, reports the CDC. Another few thousand or so are possibly beaten and left for dead by an angry friend who has become discontented by yet another pool of piss in their backseat.
Hurry up science and figure this one out!