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Alcohol abuse is in the genes

This release is also available in Spanish.

According to a study by the research group "Alcoholism and drug addiction", of the University of Granada (Universidad de Granada), although there are no specific reasons to become an alcoholic, many social, family, environmental, and genetic factors may contribute to its development. Thanks to this study, researchers have shown that the lack of endorphin is hereditary, and thus that there is a genetic predisposition to become addicted to alcohol.

Beta-endorphin is a kind of morphine released by the brain in response to several situations, such as pain. In this way, beta-endorphins can be considered endogenous analgesics to numb or dull pains.

Researchers have focused on the low beta-endorphin levels in chronic alcohol abusers. According to Jos Rico Irles, lecturer of Medicine of the UGR, and head of the research group, this low beta-endorphin level determines whether someone may become an alcoholic. When a subjects brain with low beta-endorphin levels gets used to the presence of an exogenous surplus, then, when its own production stops, a dependence starts on the external source: alcohol.

Who may become an alcohol abuser?

A total of 200 families of the Southern Spanish province of Granada participated in the research. There was at least one chronic alcoholic parent in each family. From birth, each subject presented predetermined beta-endorphin levels. However, children of this population group aged between 6 months and 10 years old, registered lower beta-endorphin levels than other children of the same age. These levels were even lower in children whose both parents were alcohol abusers, the researcher states.

According to researcher, although alcohol consumption does not affect
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Contact: Professor Jos Rico Irles
jrico@ugr.es
34-958-250-176
Universidad de Granada
29-Jun-2007


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