Senior Andres Garcia, an environmental science major with a focus on environmental toxicology at Pacific University, studied the influence of binge-drinking and stress on drinking behavior for his senior capstone project. According to Garcia, alcohol abuse is a major area of concern in our society.
“Alcoholism affects millions of people and can cause major burdens for people,” Garcia said.
Garcia explained how stress is one of the leading causes of binge-drinking. According to the American Psychological Association, 75 percent of adults in the United States reported having moderate to high levels of stress in a 2015 study.
Garcia and his team divided male mice into two groups. One group was given access to ethanol to allow binge drinking and another group had only water.
“We used male mice for our study because men are more susceptible to binge-drinking than women,” Garcia said.
After a 30-day period, both groups of mice were given free access to ethanol for four weeks and presented with a stressor twice a week for two of these weeks. Next, the mice brains were harvested and used to analyze for proteins.
“We studied the hippocampi of the mice for stress-related proteins, since it is vital to learning and memory,” Garcia said. “We observed that prior binge-drinking combined with stress, increased ethanol consumption.”
Garcia concluded that people who binge drink may be at a greater risk for increased drinking habits when experiencing stress. However, Garcia wishes he had added more samples to the study.
“We only analyzed a specific amount of mice and trials,” Garcia said. “Adding more would provide more accurate results.”
Following graduation, Garcia is planning on attending pharmacy school at Pacific.