Alcohol dependency is a hard habit to kick, but to do so is not an impossible feat. A group of scientists has been working on an experimental drug that would possibly normalize dopamine levels in an alcoholic's brain in order to help with recovery from booze addiction.
Scientists say that the drug will be able to reduce an alcoholic's thirst for a drink, but it won't enable them to drink less alcohol.
In a study published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology, scientists from the Sahlgrenska Academy and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden conducted two separate experiments.
The first experiment was a human trial where the participants abstained from drinking alcohol for at least a week. Randomly-selected, some of the participants were given a placebo while some where given a dose of the dopamine stabilizer OSU6162.
For two weeks, the participants were allowed to drink as much as they liked. On the fifteenth day of experiment, each person was given a glass of their favorite alcoholic drink. The result was that the people who had the OSU6162 reported that they did not enjoy their first sip, while the ones given a placebo did. The people who had the OSU6162 also said that their craving for alcohol has reduced.
Meanwhile, the second trial involved rats which have been given alcohol to drink for a long period. After giving these rats a dose of the OSU6162, the dopamine levels in the reward system in their brain have become normal. However, scientists have still yet to figure out if the result is the same for humans. Thorough scientific research must be done in the future.
"The results of our studies are promising, but there is still a long way to go before we have a marketable drug," said Dr. Pia Steensland, co-author of both studies.
According to the National Institutes of Health, over 16 million adults in the United States are dependent on alcohol and roughly 88,000 people die each year due to alcohol-related incidents. In 2006, substance abuse cost the U.S. economy over $223 billion. Currently, there are only a few drugs that are approved for treating alcoholism, and their prescription rates are low.
Photo : Joshua Rappeneker | Flickr