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New Research Sheds Light on Alcohol Vulnerability

Posted in Alcohol Abuse

If health officials could have more identifiable clues as to who will be more susceptible to a certain illness, they could provide preventive care in some cases. Family history is one indicator of what a person might be at risk for, but it’s not always reliable or the only precursor for illness. However, researchers are getting closer to establishing what might lead one person to be more susceptible to alcoholism than another.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center employed the use of mice to study the effects of alcohol and the early stages of the addiction process. They believe they can use this study to help determine why some are more at risk for addiction than others.

The study introduced a group of mice to alcohol at low doses and a control group was given saline. Gradually, the mice that were fed alcohol would become more stimulated after their dose, which is called locomotor sensitization. Researchers found that like mice that were more sensitive to cocaine and amphetamine, those more sensitive to the alcohol were the ones that would drink it voluntarily. The mice that showed less sensitivity, or less locomotor sensitization, were no more likely to drink alcohol when given the chance than the mice that were given the saline solution.

Interestingly, researchers also found some neurological clues to addiction: the mice that showed greatest locomotor sensitization had a deficit of neuroplasticity. This deficit has also been shown to be prevalent in cocaine addicts, according to the study.

This study is significant in that it is the first to show that alcohol sensitivity and the neuroplasticity issue is uniquely linked and brings about a testable hypothesis for future studies.