Why Some People Crave Alcohol More Than Others

A new study helps explain why some people crave alcohol and others don’t. Published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the research used PET scans to capture images of activity in the brains of heavy drinkers and non-heavy drinkers. All scans were taken before and after each person had an alcoholic beverage. Drinking alcohol triggered an endorphin release in the brain in all 25 people studied; the more endorphins released, the more pleasure a person felt when drinking. As the heavy drinkers reported feeling more intoxicated, they released more endorphins in the orbitofrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that is associated with reward processing. However, this did not happen with the non-heavy drinkers. The results suggests that some people’s brains are more likely to produce a feeling of pleasure when drinking, causing them to crave alcohol in order to feel this sensation. This information may help in the search for more effective drug treatments for addiction.


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