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Treating alcoholism with oxytocin


Oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone,” is produced by the hypothalamus of the brain and is involved in the neuroanatomy of intimacy. Oxytocin is responsible for maternal bonding, trust, sociability and romantic relationships. It is a commonly known as the reason for the strong attraction typical in budding romance. What is lesser known of oxytocin is its ability to treat alcoholism, as a recent study asserts.

This research, done by University of Sydney in Australia, found oxytocin blunted the effects of moderately heavy doses of alcohol on rats. It does so by suppressing the activity of receptors in the brain, known as GABA receptors, that are key nodes in the circuitry of reward-related behaviors and addiction.

This study was done by giving young male rats some oxytocin and a dosage of alcohol equivalent to a human drinking a bottle of wine in an evening. Testing indicated those without the oxytocin were noticeably inebriated while those with the chemical in their system acted practically sober. Once they were all given more alcohol, however, no oxytocin could keep them from getting drunk.

The researchers noted: “This study provides the first evidence of oxytocin having a direct, non-OTR-mediated effect on GABA–ethanol interactions. Recent preclinical and clinical studies indicate that oxytocin may also attenuate alcohol consumption, craving, and withdrawal, and the present study shows a previously unidentified mechanism through which some of these effects may occur.”

It’s important to note that while this study shows promise, it will take time to arrive at an approved treatment even if oxytocin pans out as viable help for alcoholics. In the meantime, there are tried and true methods of treatment for alcoholism such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and dual diagnosis programs to treat underlying conditions causing the addiction.

If you or a loved one are battling addiction, please give us a call at 866-576-4147.

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