Low alcohol use can lead to addiction
Most people believe alcohol addiction results from extensive and heavy usage. But new research has debunked that theory.
According to a recent study on rodents, even the smallest amounts of alcohol activate the part of the brain associated with the development of addiction. So when you take a sip of alcohol, you inadvertently prepare your brain for alcohol use disorder. The process gets triggered, and the journey begins.
That’s because the pathways involved with the relaxation and euphoria you experience after consuming alcohol are linked to its addicting effects. Everything gets switched on together.
However, the research does not imply that one drink can get you addicted. But one social drink can put you at risk of addiction, contrary to what you might have thought. That said, the study provides some insights into why some people fall into addiction more easily than others.
“We’re seeing that dependent behaviors may not always be from long-term, high-quantity habits but a result of rapid epigenetic changes in the brain, which we show in this study may start happening even at low doses,” said Subhash Pandey, the study’s senior author.
Epigenetic changes are modifications to DNA that regulate whether genes are turned on or off.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois.
A look into the research
The researchers studied some rodents exposed to low concentrations of alcohol. They then used RNA sequencing to examine their brain tissue to determine any gene expression due to the exposure.
The researchers discovered that tiny amounts of alcohol changed the gene expression in the amygdala, a part of the brain that regulates anxiety. In essence, low alcohol intake creates an epigenetic pathway that leads to addiction.
How many drinks is too much?
The answer is simple: when it comes to addiction, even a bottle of beer can be too much, as it sets your brain on the path to addiction.
The information is important because many of us have come across content promoting little to moderate alcohol intake to boost heart health. But even that can be risky, as low alcohol use is also associated with heart disease risks.
If you’ve always turned to alcohol to reduce stress and anxiety, you might want to find other healthier alternatives, as alcohol, no matter how minimal, exposes you to so many risks.
Some healthy stress and anxiety management options include:
- Getting enough sleep
- Taking deep breaths
- Eating well-balanced meals
- Taking time out for self-care
- Seeing a therapist when it persists.