We're sure most of you have at least heard of oxytocin. But for those uninitiated, oxytocin is a hormone that is released during social bonding, sexual reproduction and even during childbirth. So, while this hormone is mostly related to sexual activities, scientists have now found that it might come in use in treating alcohol disorders too! When a study was conducted on rats it was found that oxytocin could block enhanced drinking in alcohol-dependent rats. The researchers hope that this study can help develop oxytocin related drugs that could potentially become a solution for alcohol-related disorders.
They found that when oxytocin was administered in the brain, it helped reduce alcohol consumption, reduced withdrawal symptoms, drug-seeking behaviour (even for those with severe alcohol dependency) and turned out to be rather promising if it were to be turned into a drug to help alcohol-dependent people stop consuming so much alcohol. They started by conducting a few experiments on rats.
To begin with, they first administered oxytocin to alcohol-dependent rats and found that it had the potential to normalise all the brain changes that occurred due to alcohol dependence and because of this it was able to reduce alcohol consumption as well. Secondly, it was also found that oxytocin could alter the signalling of GABA (inhibitory neurotransmitter) in the central nucleus of the amygdala (essential part of the brain). So, when both of these factors were brought in together, it showed that oxytocin blocked enhanced drinking by altering GABA transmission.
And what was best about it was that oxytocin only did this in the brains of rats that were alcohol dependent which means it made no difference to normal rats also meaning there were no side effects of the hormone. These results alone are enough to prove that oxytocin does have the potential to be turned into a drug that could help counter the negative effects of alcohol misuse. Stay tuned for more updates.