Scientists have discovered the process by which heavy drinkers can become alcoholics.
Prolonged boozing can trigger a gene which destroys a protective protein in the brain controlling decision making.
In moderate drinkers, the BDNF protein goes up – which prevents alcohol disorders developing. But levels go down in those with a problem.
Professor Dorit Ron said: “This mechanism may be one possible explanation as to why 10 per cent of the population develop alcohol disorders.” The discovery at the University of California could help in developing suitable medication.
Pensioners put health at risk by drinking indoors
Pensioners are risking their health by binge drinking behind closed doors, experts have warned.
Older people tend to drink at home, but researchers discovered that problem drinking among them was larger than previously recorded.
This “hidden drinking” leads to an increased risk of chronic and killer health problems such as diabetes, cognitive impairment, sleep issues and depression.
Emily Robinson, director of campaigns at Alcohol Concern, said: “Our own research shows growing numbers of older people are suffering with mental and physical problems caused by regularly drinking above recommended limits, often in their own homes.
“This will have huge implications for the NHS.”
Previous research relied on pensioners filling out questionnaires – but they tended to under-report how much alcohol they consumed.
The latest US study, published online in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, involved 97 men and 77 women aged over 60 in a low-income old people’s home. Their answers were compared to the number of empty bottles and cans collected from their recycling bins.
Professors James Lange, of San Diego State University, carried out the research. He said: “This study is a reminder that as our body ages the impact on alcohol changes.”
It wasn’t about alcoholism or dependence, he said, but ” maybe instead we’re talking about periodic drinking that can lead to falls, crashes or medicine interactions”.
Caroline Abrahams of Age UK said: “As we age our bodies find it harder to process alcohol.”
Experts say men of all ages shouldn’t have more than three to four units a day (a couple of pints of beer) and women two to three units a day (roughly an average-sized glass of wine).
Also, everyone should have at least two or three “dry” days a week.