PerspectiveNeuroscience

Compelled to drink: Why some cannot stop

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Science  22 Nov 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6468, pp. 947-948
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz7357

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Summary

Excessive alcohol drinking, a component cause of more than 200 diseases, is a leading cause of preventable death (1). The loss of control over alcohol drinking to the point of compulsion—consuming alcohol despite negative consequences—is the defining characteristic of an alcohol use disorder (AUD) (2). Almost 20% of adults worldwide engage in heavy alcohol drinking episodes in their lifetime (3), and only half of heavy drinkers in the United States are able to cut down or quit drinking when faced with adverse health consequences of their drinking (2). Neither the individual differences that drive compulsion nor the circuitry of compulsive alcohol intake are well understood. On page 1008 of this issue, Siciliano et al. (4) show individual differences in the activity of neurons that comprise a newly described brain circuit in mice during early alcohol experience. The activity of these neurons predicts the escalation of alcohol drinking to compulsive intake.

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