Like humans, fruit flies that get intoxicated on alcohol can become addicted and keep drinking regardless of the consequences. (One addiction news digest headline called the critters "Buzzed Fruit Flies.")
Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco indicate this phenomenon will allow us to better understand how alcoholism works, U.S. News and World Report concluded in a stunning article, "Fruit Flies Can Be Alcoholics Too."
The scientists studied the behavior of Drosophila melanogaster who (or is it "that"?) were given the option of drinking alcohol. They found that the flies consumed food spiked with alcohol faster than plain food, and they wanted more alcohol over time.
That's alcoholism all over! People just keep drinking like - well - fruit flies. But, wait a moment, don't some people, after they get drunk a few times, decide to cut back on their drinking or not drink at all? After all, I have heard people say, "I get silly if I have more than a glass of wine - so that's all I'll drink."
I mean, don't human beings exercise some choices in line with their values? I know a lot of people who have quit smoking after being addicted. The reason they quit (or didn't start in the first place even if they were drawn to it) is because of, well, their values. They want to be healthy. They don't want people to think they are addicts. They don't want their kids imitating them in an addiction or, when pregnant, they don't want to pollute their babies.
And how do fruit flies become alcoholics, really? I mean, the alcoholics I knew blacked out, sneaked drinks and hid bottles, ran out to convenience stores to get six packs in the middle of the night, and had promiscuous sex. Can the flies do that? (I know they have promiscuous sex, but don't they do that sober?)
I had trouble in biology classes in high school and college because I asked all sorts of impertinent questions like these. Here I go again! Do fruit flies have similar kinds of feelings to humans about sex? (Are there slut fruit flies?) In terms of what might make them quit drinking, do they have similar feelings to us about pregnancy? Do they have pregnancy? Do they have intercourse or oral sex? Do they practice tantric sex? Hey, I'm getting way off topic.
Let's focus for a moment on the other end of the process. Let's say the Drosophila malanogasters (is it too late for me to retake that biology final? - I'm feeling so knowledgeable) become chronic inebriates. After talking to their pastor or their uncle in Alcoholics Anonymous, do some decide to join AA? I mean, what the heck do they say at the beginning of the meeting - you know, the part where you are supposed to admit you are an alcoholic and you're powerless over alcohol?
"I am powerless over alcohol-spiked fruit fly food." That just doesn't sound right. Maybe they can stick to the plain, "I am powerless over alcohol." That's better. But they can't talk, can they. Maybe they can dance that message out (or am I thinking of bees - did I mention my problems in biology class?). "I'm (two step) an alcoholic (dip) for life (twirl)." But, wait a second - don't fruit flies live only days? How will they do 30 meetings in 30 days?
I can see we're going to have to go back to the laboratory on this one.
December 18, 2009