Those of us that have experienced alcohol addiction, as well as those of us on the verge through prolonged abuse, understand what it’s like to simply not be able to stop. It’s like there’s some irresistible force that always guides us toward “one more drink”, no matter how many we’ve had. For a while, sometimes years, many of us just think it’s a question of willpower and our own conscious efforts. It never crosses our minds that there is a complex neurological sequence at play that dictates our drinking, and that such a sequence is more likely to affect us than our friends. Researchers at Texas A&M University just may have some definitive answers for us.
A Question of Brain Chemistry
New findings indicate that alcohol consumption alters the structure and operation of a cluster of cells in the dorsomedial striatum (the region of the brain largely responsible for regulating goal-directed behavior). These changes eventually heighten excitability in these cells, increasing the urge to consume more alcohol. This discovery could very well shed further insight regarding how the brain processes alcohol and the neurological elements that lead to and drive continued problematic drinking. Simply put, if this cluster of neurons excited, than you will want to drink alcohol, according to lead study author Jun Wang. The findings are a continuation of the research that scientists have been conducting for years at the University.
Why This Research Is Important
In 2015, the state of Texas saw 1,446 drunk-driving fatalities, which accounted for over 40 percent of all total traffic deaths. This represented an increase over eight percent from last year. That same year, there were over 99,000 DUI arrests and over 71,000 convictions. Alcohol abuse continues to be a major source of concern in Texas. They’re even exists a law that allows underage residents to possess and consume alcohol if they’re with a parent or guardian. Discoveries like the one listed above can shed direct on why people drink well past the acceptable limit. This may, in turn, dramatically mitigate fatalities and the destruction of quality of life that so many alcoholics encounter.
The more research is done, the more informed clinicians, law enforcement and prevention advocates will become in their efforts to curb alcohol addiction in their communities. This also applies to research involving illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines.
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