Embarrassing Christmas party drunks may have genetic mutation
Being the embarassing drunk at the party may be partly genetic, scientists believe
Published 18/11/2015 | 10:09
It could be the perfect excuse for those embarrassing moments at the Christmas work party. Thousands of people living in Britain may carry a faulty gene which makes them a terrible drunk.
The University of Helsinki has identified a genetic mutation which makes some drinkers far more impulsive and reckless after consuming even a small amount of alcohol.
Those people who have a reputation for not being able to ‘hold their drink’ may actually be suffering from a defective serotonin 2B receptor.
People who carry the mutation are more likely to be impulsive even when sober, but their characteristics become even more erratic after drinking alcohol.
"They get into verbal arguments and fights, have unplanned sex, are arrested more often than the healthy controls," said lead author Dr Roope Tikkanen.
“The results also indicate that persons with this mutation are more impulsive by nature even when sober, and they are more likely to struggle with self-control or mood disorders."
Little is known about the function of the serotonin 2B receptor in humans, but it is thought to be linked to impulsivity, and is linked to a number of mental health problems.
Around 2.2 per cent of the Finish population are thought to carry the mutation, which means hundreds, if not thousands of people in Britain with Finnish ancestry are likely to find themselves genetically bad drunks.
"Nowadays people move more, which may result in that the mutation is passed on," added Dr Roope.
Researchers have suggested that people with the mutation should try and curb their consumption of alcohol.
"Having this biologic mutation suggests that these persons could benefit more from medication than people without the mutation," said Dr Roope. "However, there are only a couple approved medicines available which have a partial affinity for this receptor. This gives an opportunity develop new more receptor-specific medicines.
"If I'd try to explain what we studied in this paper to a person that don't know anything about medicine I'd say something like: We had the opportunity to listen to a symphony orchestra with one harp lacking half of its strings, and we compared that sound with the one from the orchestra with a normal harp. We perceived a small disturbing difference in the sound and would want to figure out how to repair the harp or help the soloist with the broken harp to use a technique that would mimic the sound of a normal harp."
The government currently advises that men drink no more than three to four units a day, the equivalent of a strong pint of beer, and two to three units for women, a 175ml glass of wine. But people with a mutated serotonin 2B receptor could end up behaving inappropriately even if sticking to recommended limits.
To test the relationship of the gene and risky behaviour, scientists studied the health records of impulsive drinkers and their relatives. They found that those with mutated serotonin 2B receptors were far more likely to behave strangely when drinking.
Alcohol campaigners warned people to think twice about their alcohol consumption over the Christmas period, particularly at events with free bars which can encourage dangerous drinking.
Dr Sarah Jarvis, medical advisor for the alcohol education charity Drinkaware said: “Staying within the government’s lower risk guidelines will go a long way to helping you stay safe when drinking alcohol at social events over the festive season.
“Your body can only process one unit of alcohol an hour, and less in some people. Drink a lot in a short space of time and the amount of alcohol in the blood can stop the body from working properly. If you do drink too much, you could easily get into trouble – problems include alcohol poisoning, breathing problems, seizures and brain damage.
“The more drunk you are, the more likely you are to do something risky or end up in a dangerous situation.”
Charities also advise to intersperse each alcoholic drink with water which will also help avoid a hangover, never drink on an empty stomach and do not mix drinks as it can cause a toxic cocktail of tannins, sulphites and other additives.
A spokesman for Alcohol Concern added: “Few things are more embarrassing than having to phone up the party host to apologise for your drunken behaviour the night before.
“If you have a tendency to go overboard when celebrating, set yourself a limit and stick to it. Slow down your drinking and pace yourself throughout the night. Make sure you have mixers with spirits and eat something before you go out.
“If ‘Christmas Party’ means ‘free booze’ to you – beware. It can be very tempting to over indulge when the drinks are on the house.
The research was published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.