Most of us know someone who has been affected adversely by alcohol. With alcoholism on the rise, a new study has found the mammalian bonding hormone oxytocin may be the answer.
“We found that oxytocin blocks alcohol’s intoxicating effects and it prevents alcohol from acting at the sites in the brain that are involved in alcohol’s intoxicating effects,”says team member Dr. Michael Bowen, from the University of Sydney’s School of Psychology.
The findings, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences were quite “serendipitous,” says Dr. Bowen.
It was while they were observing the movement of drunk and sober rats in a different study that they realized the new discovery.
These findings could help develop a new way for the development of drugs that could help treat alcoholism in humans.
Here are the effects of oxytocin on rats.
“No one had ever reported this before and it was almost completely unexpected,” says Dr. Bowen.
One of the tests included studying how long the rats could hang upside down from a wire grid.
“The rats that were sober could hold on for about 10 to 15 seconds,” says Dr. Bowen. “The rats that had alcohol could only hold on for about two seconds.”
Rats treated with oxytocin, however were able to hold on for about 10 seconds. “So it almost completely reversed the effect of the alcohol,” according to Dr. Bowen.
The study suggests that oxytocin somehow prevents the intoxicating effects of alcohol, which include overly-relaxed muscles.
Bowen and his colleagues then studied in vitro the delta-subunit GABA-A receptors that alcohol is known to bind to that cause intoxication. When they applied alcohol, the receptors gave a very big response, but then they were able to block that response with the oxytocins, ABC said on their website.
“Each year in Australia, there are 65,000 hospitalizations and 1,500 deaths due to alcohol-related injuries and a significant proportion of those injuries and deaths are sustained by alcoholics,” says Bowen. “Here’s a drug that potentially could make you less likely to consume alcohol and then, if you do consume the alcohol, less intoxicated and much less likely to be injured.”
Hopefully, this can be developed to help ease alcoholism and other alcohol problems.