Photography: Getty Images
Photography: Getty Images

Rock stars, Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan might be immune to it, but UK scientists claim they’ve discovered a genetic explanation behind why some people binge drink more than others.

Researchers at Kings College in London say they found a specific gene that hard-wires people’s brains to drink excessive amounts of alcohol on a single occasion.

The gene RASGRF-2, they say, directly boosts the happy chemical dopamine in the brain, which is naturally triggered by alcohol.

After scanning the brains of hundreds of teenage boys, scientists found that those displaying a version of the RASGRF-2 gene recorded higher levels of dopamine in their results.

Scientists say the discovery will help lead to a greater understanding as to why some people are predisposed to frequently drinking high amounts of alcohol, particularly teenage boys.

“We now understand the chain of action - how our genes shape this function in our brains and how that, in turn, leads to human behaviour,” said Professor Schumann, a lead author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In Australia, binge drinking among teenagers has reached epidemic levels. Alcohol is responsible for the majority of drug-related deaths and hospital episodes among young adults, causing more deaths and hospitalizations.

In 2009-10 the Australian Medical Association reported more than 20,000 people aged 10-39 were hospitalised from alcohol-related injuries.

Short and long term health risk factors linked to binge drinking

• Alcohol poisoning
• Vomiting and/or memory loss
• Heart disease
• Kidney failure
• Cancer of the throat or mouth
• Mental health problems such as depression or anxiety

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