Alcohol triggers the human brain to release more dopamine and create a euphoric sensation, although these pleasant effects wear off over time. Studies by researchers at Karolinska Institutet have suggested that a dopamine stabilizer reduces alcohol cravings in humans and normalizes the reward system in rats' brains. Swedish researchers have now taken a step towards developing a more efficient drug to fight alcoholism by tweaking the brain's reward system.
Pia Steensland, an associate professor at the university, said, "The socioeconomic costs of alcohol are huge, not to mention the human suffering. It is inspiring to continue working. The results of our studies are promising, but there is still a long way to go before we have a marketable drug."
The study on human beings showed that alcohol-dependent patients who had taken the dopamine stabilizer showed less of a desire to continue drinking after one glass of beer. Steensland said, "Those with the poorest impulse control, that is those thought to be most at risk of relapse after a period of abstinence, were those who responded best."
The other study revealed that the substance could regulate the dopamine levels in rats who had consumed alcohol, suggesting that it might help stabilize the brain's reward system in alcoholic patients.