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What separates an alcoholic from a normal drinker? The compulsion to drink despite negative consequences has baffled scientists, family members, spouses, and loved ones for centuries. How is it that two perfectly normal people, standing side by side, can consume alcohol and react in completely different ways? Even “normal” drinkers who drink heavily or binge drink do not experience the peculiar phenomena of craving as alcoholics do. Additionally, they have the simple ability that alcoholics do not: the ability to stop.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous explains that for the true alcoholic one is never enough. A common saying in recovery is that “one is too many, a thousand never enough.” The insatiable thrist for alcohol is unending in the alcoholic. Unique to addiction is the tendency to be lacking in a stopping limit, especially in consideraiton of negative consequences. It is the alcoholic who fools himself into believing he can have just one. “Cunning, baffling, powerful” is how The Big Book describes alcohol. Until now, alcoholics have been seen to be “powerless” over alcohol. While many argue this as a matter of willpower, AA sees it as a matter of spiritual malady. New research suggests that the alcoholic brain is actually deficient in a very important protein which helps with that “power”.

The “Enough” Factor in the Brain

PRDM2, according to inews, controls various nerve signals that help stop drinking. Meaning, that this protein is essential to having power over when enough is enough. The protein is located in the frontal lobes of the cortex, which is where the brain makes decisions. Specifically, PRDM2 manages how one nerve cell signals another. If there isn’t enough protein present, there will be ineffective communication about impulsivity among nerve cells.

The research found that in brains of alcoholics, PRDM2 was practically nonexistent. Not only does this impair the ability to stop drinking at any point, it also impairs the impulse to drink. Decision making about alcohol includes when and why to pick up alcohol in addition to how much. For example, active and present PRDM2 might contribute to avoiding a drink in times of stress. A better functioning frontal lobe means making more rational decisions.

Science continues to help destigmatize alcoholism and addiction. One day there might be a “cure” for the disease of addiction. Until that day, the more information gained, the greater treatment experiences we can provide.