A crappy day at work, a silly fight with a friend, #Friday—on the surface, we all know why we drink. But a new study has supposedly uncovered a physiological connection to explain why we keep drinking, often to our detriment. The urge to reach for one more shot of Evan Williams (and one or five more after that) appears to be linked to a neural circuit in the brain that connects stress with reward, according to a study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ironically, alcohol itself—in addition to your overbearing boss—is what's causing the stress response in the brain.
The two areas in the brain isolated in this study are the extended amygdala and the ventral tegmental area, the prior related to stress response and the latter for reward. According to their release on the study, this is the first time the areas have been shown to be "connected by long projection neurons that produce a substance called corticotropin releasing factor (CRF)."
In their work, [Todd] Thiele [UNC-Chapel Hill’s department of psychology and neuroscience] and colleagues show that alcohol, a physiological stressor, activates the CRF neurons in the extended amygdala, which directly act on the ventral tegmental area. These observations in mice suggest that when someone drinks alcohol, CRF neurons become active in the extended amygdala and act on the ventral tegmental area to promote continued and excessive drinking, culminating in a binge.
This discovery could lead to pharmacological treatments that could prevent binge drinking and may be a key discovery towards treating alcohol dependency. Binge drinking and excessive consumption of alcohol is a huge financial suck on the economy and clogs up city hospitals with inebriated individuals who drain resources and time. Worst of all, Pranna:
According to the CDC, anyone who drinks 15 or more drinks on average (men), or eight or more drinks on average (women), per week is a "problem drinker." New York City, we have a problem.