Drinking your way through the pandemic? You’re not alone. A fresh study out of Yale University indicates that there are many, many causes fueling that predilection to hit the bottle. Twenty nine, to be exact: That’s the number of genetic variants associated with problematic drinking, in a new genomic analysis of nearly a half million people, published in Nature Neuroscience.
“The new data triple the number of known genetic risk loci associated with problematic alcohol use,” says senior author Joel Gelernter, a professor of genetics and neuroscience. Ten variants had been previously identified.
The researchers identified problematic alcohol users, ranging from daily drinkers to binge drinkers to those with medical consequences from drinking, and cross-referenced their genomes for common genetic variants. In addition to the raft of new variants, they also found associations between problematic drinking and common disorders like depression and anxiety, providing the genetic architecture behind long-observed behaviors, like the fact that melancholia and drinking go hand in hand. The study only looked at data banks of people of European ancestry.
Notably, alcoholism is here to stay: The heritable variants associated with problematic drinking are in regions of the genome that control brain function and biological regulation—in other words, hardwired into pivotal human encoding. Up next, future doctors will be able to screen your genome, and tell you your relative risk of problematic drinking.