Genetics appear to play a role in teens' use of heavy drinking to cope with negative feelings, a new study suggests.
Researchers collected DNA from 282 teens in the Netherlands who had consumed alcohol at least once in their lives. The teens were also asked about their reasons for drinking and the degree of alcohol-related problems they had experienced.
The study found that binge drinking and alcohol-related problems among the teens were strongly associated with drinking to cope and variations in the dopamine D2 receptor (DRD2) gene, which is involved in the brain's reward pathway.
The findings appear online and in the April print issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
The study is the first to examine the link between genes, drinking to cope and risky alcohol use by teens, said senior author Carmen S. van der Zwaluw, a doctoral candidate at Radboud University, who added that further research is required to confirm the findings.
The next step "would be examining whether other genetic variants increase the risk for drinking problems, and if this risk can be decreased by learning other coping styles to handle the problems," van der Zwaluw said in a journal news release.