A drug used to treat mental health issues may reverse heavy alcohol consumption's damaging effects on the brain's ability to form new cells.
Researchers tested the drug called tandospirone on adult mice. Tandospirone is already used in China and Japan as a treatment for depression and anxiety. The drug is well-tolerated with limited side effects.
In the new study, Selena Bartlett from the Queensland University of Technology Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation and her colleagues found that daily doses of tandospirone over a period of two weeks helped reverse the effects of binge-like alcohol consumption on the brain's ability to grow and replace neurons.
Alcohol And Brain Damage
Alcohol has long been known to cause damage to the brain but findings of the new study, which were published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed for the first time that tandospirone could reverse the deficit induced by alcohol consumption on brain neurogenesis, the process by which new neurons are formed.
"This opens the way to look at if neurogenesis is associated with other substance-abuse deficits, such as in memory and learning, and whether this compound can reverse these," Bartlett said.
Tandospirone May Help Reboot The Brain
In the animal studies, the researchers found that the drug was effective at stopping the anxiety-like behaviors linked to alcohol withdrawal. They also found that treatment resulted in significant reduction in binge-like alcohol intake.
Bartlett said that tandospirone does not just show promise in helping reduce binge drinking. It may also be able to reboot the brain and reverse the behavioral consequences of heavy alcohol use.
"Our results confirm previous observations that 5-HT1A receptors play a pivotal role in alcohol drinking behavior and the associated emotional and neurogenic impairments, and suggest that 5-HT1A partial agonists represent a promising treatment strategy for alcohol abuse," the researchers wrote in their study.
Effects Of Heavy Alcohol Use
Researchers continue to be on the lookout for treatment strategies for people suffering from alcohol abuse and addiction.
Besides brain damage, excessive alcohol consumption can cause cancer, social problems such as unemployment and loss of productivity, and chronic diseases such as heart disease and digestive problems. Excessive consumption of alcohol has also been linked to deadly vehicular accidents. Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that between the year 2006 and 2010, excessive alcohol use caused about 88,000 deaths per year.