Why Some People Get Reckless When They Drink

Alcohol intake may affect people differently based on gene mutation


A tiny genetic mutation may control whether you "hold" your liquor all night or go nuts after a glass of wine with dinner.

How you respond to alcohol may come down to a tiny gene mutation, according to a small new study from the University of Helsinki in Finland.

The gene in question is the serotonin 2B receptor gene. Never heard of it? No big deal, but a mutation of this gene might control a lot about your personality, said lead study author Roope Tikkanen, PhD, of the University of Helsinki.

“The results also indicate that persons with this mutation are more impulsive by nature even when sober, and they are more likely to struggle with self-control or mood disorders,” Dr. Tikkanen said in a press release.

Around 2.2 percent of the Finnish population might carry this mutation, Dr. Tikkanen and team estimated. The patients in this study who carried the mutation were more prone to angry outbursts, aggression and other impulsive behaviors when drunk than those who didn't have the mutation.

But like you take your margaritas, take these findings with (a grain of) salt. Dr. Tikkanen and colleagues only studied 14 people with the gene mutation, alongside 156 control patients (who didn't have the mutation). These researchers called for more research to explore these findings.

Still, the researchers noted, these findings could one day have implications for patients with trouble controlling their impulses or who chronically drink too much.

This study was published Nov. 17 in the journal Translational Psychiatry. Dr. Tikkanen and colleagues disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.