19 April 2016

Researchers Trialling a Blood Pressure Medication for Treatment of Alcohol Addiction

According to independent charity Drinkaware, around nine per cent of men and four per cent of women in the UK are showing signs of alcoholism. Alcohol addiction, as it is also known, is an illness that changes the way the brain functions, and an illness that directly and indirectly affects millions of Britons every year.

Those who suffer from alcohol addiction are at risk of a host of mental and physical health conditions, and those closest to them are affected in various ways. These can include relationship breakdown, financial hardship and mental health problems.

Alcohol addiction also affects everyone else in the country as it costs the economy billions of pounds each year. The National Health Service is under immense strain because of alcohol-related injuries and illnesses, which is in addition to the pressure placed on other public services such as the police. All in all, alcohol addiction affects the entire country.

New Research

There are various treatments already available for alcohol addiction, but, unfortunately, not enough people are accessing them. However, a team of researchers in Brisbane are looking into the possibility of using an existing treatment to prevent cravings among alcohol addicts, which could revolutionise the way alcoholism is treated.

Pindolol is currently available on the market for the treatment of high blood pressure, and researchers at QUT have been studying whether this medication could also be used to stop cravings in those affected by alcohol addiction.

The study, which was published in Addiction Biology, was tested on laboratory mice, and Omkar Patkar, one of the researchers, said “Pindolol has a dual mechanism of action, which means it targets two signalling pathways in the brain. The first one is the noradrenaline pathway and the second is the serotonin pathway. The noradrenaline pathway modulates your fight or flight response, your stress response and the serotonin pathway modulates emotion, behaviour, mood. Pindolol reduces the effects of altered signalling pathways in the brain that compels you to have a drink.”

Limitations of Current Drugs

According to Patkar, there are limitations to the current drugs available for the treatment of alcohol addiction. He added, “Alcohol affects everyone in a different way, and one treatment that could be effective for one person, might not be effective for another.”

Dr Matthew Frei, who is the clinical director of Australia’s Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, agreed. He said, “With current medications, most who don’t identify as heavy drinkers are a bit resistant to taking medication for it because these medications need to be taken every day and they may well have side-effects and costs. At the moment, most treatments are focused on those who drink more than ten drinks a day.”

He added that Pindolol could be widely used if it is found to have very little side effects in the treatment of alcohol addiction. Nonetheless, he believes that any medication for alcohol addiction would always need to be used in conjunction with other treatments such as therapy and counselling. He said that alcohol addiction is “a combination of social and psychological problems, so you have to treat all of those things.”

According to Mr Patkar, clinical trials of Pindolol in human participants could begin by December 2016.

Sources:

  1. DrinkAware
  2. Brisbane Times

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