THURSDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- A young adult's early
response to alcohol may predict future drinking problems,
The University of Chicago study included 200 volunteers, aged 21
to 35, who were classified as either light or heavy drinkers during
an initial laboratory test. Heavy drinkers experienced greater
sensitivity to the rewarding and stimulating effects of alcohol,
while light drinkers reported stronger alcohol-related sluggishness
and sedation, the study found.
"They both had very similar blood alcohol concentration curves, but the effects of alcohol were markedly different," study author Andrea King, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience, said in a University of Chicago Medical Center news release.
The findings show that "you can take a 150-pound male light
drinker and a 150-pound male heavy drinker and give them each the
exact same dose of alcohol, but their brains respond very
differently to this substance, hence the divergent experiences and
mood reports after consumption. It's really fascinating," King
Over two years of follow-up, the heavy drinkers fell into
different groups, including those who cut back on binge drinking
("gradual maturing"), those who kept up a moderate or high
frequency of binge drinking, and those who bumped up their binge
People in the "exacerbating" group drank more alcohol, drank
more often, suffered more alcohol-related problems, and were more
likely to meet the criteria for diagnosis of alcohol abuse or
dependence, the study authors noted.
Because the study participants who exacerbated their binge
drinking habits during the follow-up period were more likely to
have experienced positive and stimulating effects of alcohol in the
initial laboratory test, the researchers suggested that it may be
possible to predict a person's future drinking behavior.
"If we know more about who's going to become a problem drinker, we may be able to prevent future escalations and intervene earlier, before development of severe alcoholism," King said. "The stimulant-type responder could learn that while such a response pattern may not be their fault, it could put them at risk for longer-term problems and consequences."
The study was published in the April issue of the
Archives of General Psychiatry.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more