Why do some people get addicted faster than others?

How alcohol affects the brain

Recent studies show that the risk after addicted to alcohol become depends not only on the amount and frequency of drinking, but much more on how the brain reacts to alcohol.

researchers University of Illinois at Chicago (USA) were able to document previously unknown changes in the brain of rodents as a result of alcohol consumption. These changes appear to be decisive for appearance of dependence. The results of the study were recently published in the journal “Molecular Psychiatry” present.

Alcohol changes circuits in the brain

According to the study, alcohol leads to changes in brain circuits, especially in areas important for the development of addictions. According to the working group, the same circuits that promote addiction also promote addiction. states of anxiety and stress decide and euphoria trigger.

“This suggests that when the brain experiences the calming effects of alcohol and the mood-boosting effects, it is also preparing it for alcohol abuse disorder.”confirms study lead author and professor of psychiatry Subhash Pandey at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago.

Individual Risk of Addiction

He says the study provides the first clues as to why some people become more addicted to alcohol than others.

“We see that addictive behaviors are not always associated with long-standing habits in large quantities, but rather with rapid epigenetic changes in the brain, which we show in this study can occur at low doses.”explained pandy.

research progress

For the study, various groups of rats were given small amounts of alcohol under control conditions. Brain tissue samples were then taken from the animals and analyzed by RNA sequencing.

Alcohol affects the Hif3a gene

The team was able to show that alcohol leads to changes in a gene called the hypoxia-induced alpha factor 3 subunit.hif3a) led. Increased Hif3a expression has been directly linked to behavior changes in animals such as one anxiety reduction.

“We’ve seen that low doses of what we call ‘social drinking’ alter gene expression in the amygdala, an area of ​​the brain that regulates anxiety.”approved Professor Pandey. According to him, alcohol creates epigenetic addiction pathway.

In another experiment, scientists blocked the Hif3a gene in the brains of rats, causing the animals to become anxious again, even when they were given alcohol.

Researchers suspect that this process is also responsible for the anxiety many alcohol addicts experience. conclusion Experienced.

There are no safe levels of alcohol consumption

The results of the study highlight that there are no safe amounts of alcohol consumption exist where dependency can be ruled out. The changes that alcohol causes in the brain vary from person to person.

“Don’t think social drinking is safe”, Pandey emphasizes. Even small amounts can “Creating a Primer for Addiction”.

“Alcoholism is complex and intractable”warns the psychiatrist. The results of the study help to understand the processes that occur in the brain under the influence of alcohol, and at the same time offer new approaches for the better. Alcohol addiction treatmentsums up Pandey. (wb)

Information about the author and source

This text complies with the requirements of specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current research and has been verified by medical professionals.


Chartered Editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Krishnan H.R., Zhang H., Chen Y. et al. Uncovering epigenomic and transcriptome interactions during alcohol-induced anxiolysis; in: Molecular Psychiatry (2022),
  • UIC: How many drinks are too many? (veroffentlicht: 09/12/2022),

Important note:
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot replace a visit to the doctor.

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