Can Oxytocin Help Treat Alcoholism?

Can Oxytocin Help Treat Alcoholism?

As Alcohol Awareness Month rolls on, one of the primary purposes of the event is to continue to find new treatment options for the disease. The research community is working every day to identify new avenues to effectively treat alcoholism and other types of substance use disorder, and earlier this month, members claim they made a significant breakthrough. Scientists at Scripps Research and National Institute on Drug Abuse discovered that oxytocin (commonly referred to as a “love drug”) can block the desire to consume more alcohol in rat models. They believe that the hormone could be an effective pharmaceutical approach in treating alcohol dependence.

What Is Oxytocin?

Oxytocin is a peptide hormone that plays a significant role in social bonding, sexual reproduction, childbirth and neonatal bonding. It is often referred to as the “cuddle hormone” or the “love hormone” because of its association with love, closeness and affection. It has a critical impact on many post-partum factors, including the mother’s ability to produce milk and her ability to bond with her newborn child. Although the hormone is so closely associated with childbirth, it is also produced in males, making its potential impact on the treatment of alcohol use disorder a viable resource for patients of both sexes. One recent study actually suggests that the hormone helps men stay monogamous.

How Can Oxytocin Help Combat Alcoholism?

Researchers studied the effects of oxytocin on the part of the brain called the amygdala, the region that receives messages from senses and internal organs. They found that oxytocin blocked excessive alcohol consumption in dependent subjects by blocking the signals of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). While the study was conducted using lab rats, researchers are optimistic that its findings will be applicable to alcohol-dependent humans as well. It was published in the April 16th  issue of PLOS Biology, and leaves researchers and scientists optimistic that a new resource for the treatment of alcohol use disorder is on the horizon.

A New Avenue for Treatment?

At the same time that these potentially revolutionary findings are being published, data from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reveals that 17.6 million Americans are currently struggling with alcohol use disorder and that seven million children are living in homes with at least one alcoholic parent. In a climate where alcohol use disorder is a leading cause of death, injury and a decline in quality of life, there needs to be as much focus as possible on developing long-term and clinical interventions to combat this disease; this latest discovery may be a step in the right direction.

Know What Else Releases Oxytocin?

There is ample research to show that engagement with music, including singing, playing collaboratively and seeing live performances also releases oxytocin. These activities offer a deep sense of social bonding, whether it’s through active or passive participation. Recovery Unplugged is ready to help you or your loved one harness the neurobiological benefits of music-based therapy to overcome alcohol use disorder.