What accounts for the variable effect of alcohol on different people? Elizabeth Tracey reports


How is it that some people appear to be able to use alcohol, even several drinks at a sitting, and not be impacted much, while others are more susceptible to becoming intoxicated? Alcohol use disorder expert Denis Antoine at Johns Hopkins says at least two mechanisms are involved.

Antoine: Alcohol affects a certain receptor. There's a lot of it in our brains, it's called the GABA receptor and some people have more than others and some of that is actually genetically based. Some people say that about 40% of alcohol use disorder is based on genetics or we may be born with more receptors than other folks and that could be a familial thing that's passed down. As alcohol comes into our system more and more our body adapts our body has a way of breaking down alcohol. Certain ethnicities and genders have different levels of that enzyme that can break down the alcohol.   :32

Antoine notes that knowing your family history of reactions to alcohol is usually very informative when it comes to predicting your own. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.