New Treatment in Development for Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction can be one of the most difficult addictions to treat. There are a number of substance abuse treatment centers available dedicated to helping individuals overcome alcohol dependence through the use of traditional 12-step programs in combination with therapy. Traditional treatment certainly works for some people, but avoiding alcohol completely after treatment ends is where things become really challenging. At first, the solution to overcoming addiction may seem simple. Just avoid the object of your addiction, right? But unfortunately, it’s not so easy. Temptation is everywhere, especially when it comes to alcohol. As a result, for many individuals, willpower alone isn’t enough to defeat the urge. Luckily, however, new research is being conducted every day to determine new, more effective treatment options. In fact, researchers are now developing new medications which may prove to be a a new and successful method of treating alcohol dependence.
The Long-Term Treatment Some Alcoholics Need?
In a report from Medical News Today: “Researchers at Karolinska Institutet and the Sahlgrenska Academy in Sweden might be one step closer to finding an effective drug for alcohol dependence.” In two separate studies, the researchers found that the so-called dopamine stabilizer OSU6162 can help reduce cravings for alcohol in those who are addicted. In addition, it helped to normalize dopamine levels in the brain reward system of the rats tested. These rats had consumed alcohol over a long period of time, and therefore acted as a model for human individuals who had developed an addiction to alcohol.
At present, the researchers are trying to gain approval for clinical testing. These trials will help determine if OSU6162 can really help reduce cravings in alcohol dependent people. However, early results seem promising. Associate Professor at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet and co-author of both studies, Dr. Pia Steensland, positively states that “the results of our studies are promising, but there is still a long way to go before we have a marketable drug.” Moreover, she adds that “the socioeconomic costs of alcohol are huge, not to mention the human suffering. It is inspiring to continue working.”
It shouldn’t be long before medical aids such as these are put into development and circulation to help reduce rates of relapse. In Sweden alone, approximate 1 million individuals over the age of 15 drink considerable amounts of alcohol. In fact, it has gotten to the point where they are placing significant risk on their health. Recent estimates have suggested that around 300,000 of this population are dependent on alcohol. Unfortunately, the United States isn’t much better off, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. They reveal that “16.6 million adults ages 18 and older3 (7.0 percent of this age group) had an [Alcohol Use Disorder] in 2013. This includes 10.8 million men (9.4 percent of men in this age group) and 5.8 million women (4.7 percent of women in this age group).”
Opening Up to New Treatment Options
Knowing this, it’s obvious there is pressing need for alternative, successful treatment options for alcoholism, in addition to rehabilitation and therapy. However, presently there are only a few drugs approved for the treatment of alcohol dependence. Their effects vary on an individual basis and prescription rates are low. Consequently, the search for new, successful drugs for treating alcohol dependence continues.
The studies of OSU6162 have proven promising so far. This research is based on the knowledge of how the brain reward system causes us to act in the interests of our own survival. Dopamine helps to create a sensation of wellbeing. We can experience this sensation for a number of reasons, including harmless ones such as when we exercise or eat good food. The memory of the relationship between the feeling to the action results in our repeating the behavior. In other words, if we go to a restaurant and enjoy a good meal, we’re likely to go back and try it again in the future. Of course, this becomes problematic once alcohol is involved. Alcohol causes the brain to release more dopamine than usual, which creates the pleasant euphoric sensations associated with drinking. This means that the more alcohol consumed, the more we become desensitized. This then leads to the need to consume more alcohol in the future to experience the same euphoria. When this repetition of behavior occurs and becomes habitual, we call it addiction.
Promising Results of OSU6162 Studies Thus Far
The clinical study, published in the scientific journal European Neuropsychopharmacology, explored whether or not OSU6162 can actually reduce cravings for alcohol in individuals who were dependent. The first of its kind, the study treated half of the participants with OSU6162 and the other half with a placebo over two weeks. After this, both groups were exposed to different situations designed to elicit a craving response. The study concluded thatthe group treated with OSU6162 ultimately experienced less cravings for alcohol than their placebo counterpart after one drink.
Dr. Streensland added that “one interesting secondary finding was that those with the poorest impulse control, that is those thought to be most at risk of relapse after a period of abstinence, were those who responded best to the OSU6162 treatment.” These findings are supplemented by those provided by a rat study, the results of which were published at the same time in the journal Addiction Biology. It shows that rats that voluntarily consumed alcohol for almost a year had lower levels of dopamine in their brain reward system than their sober counterparts. Following treatment with OSU6162, however, it was revealed that the substance counteracted with the low concentrations of dopamine in the brain.
Is Taking a Pill to Treat an Addiction Going Against Traditional Recovery?
Addiction to alcohol is persistent, and oftentimes overwhelming. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” This disease is characterized by an “inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response.” In other words, as much as someone addicted to alcohol wants to stop drinking, their mind and body will not let them. If there is something that saves more lives, then why not be open to exploring that type of treatment?