Is Binge Drinking Genetic?

According to the National Institutes of Health, binge drinking refers to a pattern of consuming alcoholic beverages that quickly brings one’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter or higher.  For women, consuming four or more alcoholic beverages within 2 hours would bring them to this point.  Men, however, would need to consume five or more drinks to do the same.  Meanwhile, preteens and teens can drink fewer drinks and reach a BAC of 0.08, typically three drinks for girls and between 3 to 5 drinks for boys.

How Prevalent Is Binge Drinking in America?

When we take a hard look at the numbers, the percentage of people who admit to binge drinking is quite sobering. In a 2019 study published by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, researchers revealed that some 66 million or roughly 24 percent of Americans age 12 and older routinely engaged in binge drinking or “high-intensity drinking,” a far more dangerous and destructive form of binge drinking.  For those not familiar with high-intensity drinking, it is, in effect, binge drinking on steroids in that women and men who partake in it often consume 8 to 10 drinks, respectively, in a single sitting.

It is worth noting that high-intensity binge drinking is not uncommon among young college students.  For reference, an estimated 12 percent of young adults in college were deemed high-intensity drinkers in a study published by the National Institutes of Health.  And like run-of-the-mill binge drinkers, many admitted that they, too, were sometimes met with devastating consequences after having consumed more alcohol than they could handle.

The Consequences of Binge Drinking and High-Intensity Drinking: Calculating the True Cost of Overindulgence

While most of us are well aware of the potential dangers of tying one on at a bar, nightclub, or while out with friends and will, as a result, avoid overindulging, not everyone is as cautious when they drink.  And those are the individuals who are more likely to binge drink and find themselves on the receiving end of devastating consequences.  Some of those consequences might include the following:

  • Traffic accidents
  • Unwanted pregnancy
  • Contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
  • An increased risk of developing certain cancers
  • Blackouts
  • Overdosing

Is There a Genetic Component Associated With Binge Drinking

Although both are technically alcohol use disorders, binge drinking and alcoholism are two distinctly different conditions.  And that should be taken into context when discussing whether or not there is a genetic component associated with excessive alcohol consumption.  When it comes to alcoholism, a study from the National Institutes of Health found that two genes linked to alcohol metabolism, ADH1B and ALDH2, can significantly increase the risk of suffering from alcoholism.

As far as genes and binge drinking, that is an entirely different matter altogether, notes an article published by Forbes.  The well-written article suggested that binge drinking and high-intensity binge drinking can both alter deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in the body in such a way that it triggers long-lasting genetic changes that gradually intensify alcohol cravings.  When you factor in these changes in DNA coupled with the genes linked to alcohol metabolism in ADH1B and ALDH2, it is easy to see how binge drinking can eventually morph into full-on alcoholism.  But it does not end there as two more genes might also be correlated with binge drinking.

Per2 and POMC: Two More Genes That Scientists Say Could Dictate Drinking Behavior in Some People

Along with ADH1B and ALDH2 and alterations in DNA, studies show that two more genes, Per2 and POMC, might also have a hand in dictating drinking behavior. So whether or not someone perpetually engages in binge drinking and ultimately becomes dependent on alcohol could very well hinge on whether or not they carry these two genes. For reference, the Per2 gene controls the body’s biological clock, and the POMC gene regulates the psychological and physiological stress response.

Bottom Line

Indeed, there is a genetic component associated with binge drinking, but, for many people, there is a social component as well.  In any event, once it becomes clear that someone has a problem with alcohol, they should seek help as soon as possible.  For more information on binge drinking or for help finding a rehab facility in your area, consider speaking with one of our associates today at 833-497-3812.