A research team led by Raye Litten, from US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) have conducted a randomised clinical trial on a new drug called ABT-436 which helps to treat alcohol addiction in people.
The research study was published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
‘Drugs targeting the stress system of the brain may reduce smoking and alcohol addiction in people.’
The new drug was found to block the effects of a neuropeptide called vasopressin in the hypothalamus of the brain. It was found to target the stress system of the brain which may reduce alcohol use in people with alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Litten said that "Vasopressin helps to regulate the pituitary adrenal axis and other brain circuits involved in emotion. As such, it plays a role in regulating stress, anxiety, and their interaction with AUD"
A 12 week study was conducted on 144 alcohol-dependent men and women. With a base period of 28 days, female participants were found to consume atleast 28 drinks per week and male participants were found to consume 35 drinks per week.
Participants were then subjected to take placebo tablets or ABT-436 drug. Mood changes, smoking habits and alcohol consumption of participants were monitored by the research team.
The findings of the study reported that participants who took ABT-436 drug were found to have longer alcohol abstinence when compared to participants who took placebo drug. The frequency and the number of drinks among people with high stress levels were also found to decrease after taking ABT-436.
Megan Ryan, a clinical project manager in the NIAAA Division of Medications Development said that
"Our findings suggest that potential future studies with drugs targeting vasopressin blockade should focus on populations of people with AUD who also report high levels of stress"
This drug is also found to be useful among people who smoke as participants who received ABT-436 also experienced a reduction in smoking. Researchers concluded that the new drug was found to target the same areas in the brain as that of withdrawal and stress which influence smoking and alcohol use disorders.