We all have a friend or acquaintance who c hen drinking alcohol gets out of control and shows impulsive and reckless behavior . A Finnish study suggests that these individuals cannot avoid it, as they are genetically predisposed to react in this way when drinking alcohol.

A genetic mutation found in 2.2 percent of the population appears to be the cause of this problematic behavior. The gene mutation affects the serotonin receptor called 2B.

You still don’t know what serotonin is? In the article “Serotonin: discover the effects of this hormone on your body and mind” we explain it in detail.

2.2 percent of the population has this genetic mutation

Everyone has a different level of tolerance for alcohol, but for some individuals, just drinking a small amount of this substance can act in a very disproportionate, impulsive, reckless and dangerous way.

Recent research has found a biological reason for this behaviour, as a group of researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland claim that the cause is found in a genetic mutation . In the country where this study was conducted, more than 100,000 people have this mutation.

The study confirms other research from 2010

The research was conducted by psychiatrist Roope Tikkanen, and concludes that the mutation of a gene related to the serotonin receptor B2 causes impulsive behavior, particularly when the carrier individual is drunk. Published by Nature Publishing in their journal Translational Psychiatry , the research results confirm an earlier study by Bevilacqua and his team, which was conducted in 2010.

For Tikkanen’s study, however, the scientists used data from alcoholic patients and their families, collected by Mattu Virkkunen, professor emeritus of forensic psychiatry at the same university. In addition, the research subjects completed personality questionnaires and were interviewed face-to-face by a psychiatrist.

The discovery has its origin in a cooperative relationship that has lasted several years, between the Psychiatric Clinic of the University of Helsinki and the Neurogenetics Laboratory of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the United States, which is directed by Dr. David Goldman.

Not much is known about the serotonin receptor 2B

Tikkanen explains: “There are people who change radically when they consume alcohol and are not able to correct their behaviour despite the fact that it is repeated, which did not suggest to us that this phenomenon was due to biological factors.

Very little is known about the serotonin 2B receptor in humans, but it is thought to be related to impulsivity, which, in turn, is associated with various mental health problems. The identified mutation is present in 2.2 percent of the population, therefore more than 100,000 Finns are carriers.

“The impact of a gene on a complex phenomenon like this is difficult to observe. But it is possible to identify the impact of the genetic mutation on the Finnish population, as our historical isolation has led us to a relatively homogeneous gene pool,” says Tikkanen.


If these results are confirmed in larger samples of subjects who have serious difficulties in controlling their impulsivity, various corrective measures can be taken. The most important and priority is the prevention of alcohol consumption by these individuals. Other measures could be cognitive-behavioral therapy for impulse control or, ultimately, pharmacological treatment.

Apart from the effect it may have on the health of the population, the discovery of this biological mechanism may lead to further research into the role of the serotonin 2B receptor in the human body. Further research in the neurobiological field will surely go in this direction. Furthermore, the better knowledge about this receptor may stimulate innovation in the pharmacological world .

Finally, Tikkanen concludes: “the mutation may also be predictive of violent impulsive behaviour, as we found that the prevalence of the mutation is four times higher among a population of individuals categorized as ‘violent offenders. This may have implications for violence prevention and serve the legal system in decision-making.