A study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) can go a long way in helping researchers explore personalized treatment alternatives for people with alcoholism and alcohol use disorder (AUD). It can help improve the lives of around 138.3 million current alcohol users, 66.7 million binge drinkers and 17.3 million heavy alcohol users aged 12 or older in the United States, according to the data from 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
The researchers found that the brains of alcohol-dependent rats are different from nondependent rats. Though the central amygdala (CeA), a region of the brain, in both the groups showed increased activity after rats consumed alcohol, two entirely different brain signaling pathways were responsible for the same.
Brain’s alcohol response ‘Switch’
The research published in the The Journal of Neuroscience in April 2017 was based on the previous discovery by Roberto lab, which showed an increased neuronal activity in the CeA due to alcohol use. The increased activity was consistent in both alcohol-dependent and nondependent, or naïve rats. As the researchers dug deeper into the phenomenon in the new study, they were surprised to note that the two groups differed in the mechanisms underlying this increased activity.
They gave naïve rats a dose of alcohol and engaged proteins called calcium channels. The specific calcium channels, also referred to as L-type voltage-gated calcium channels (LTCCs), stimulated the release of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). It was found that voluntary alcohol consumption in naïve rats can be reduced by blocking these LTCCs.
On the other hand, alcohol-dependent rats showed decreased quantity of LTCCs on neuronal cell membranes. This disrupted their normal ability to drive alcohol’s effects on CeA activity. On the contrary, researchers found that the increased neuronal activity in these rats was caused by a stress hormone called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and its type 1 receptor (CRF1). This made them conclude that in alcohol-dependent rats, voluntary alcohol consumption can be reduced by blocking CeA CRF1s.
TSRI Professor Marisa Roberto, senior author of the new study said, “There is a switch in the molecular mechanisms underlying the CeA’s response to alcohol (from LTCC- to CRF1-driven) as the individual transitions to the alcohol-dependent state.” She is hopeful that the study paves way for developing more personalized treatments for alcohol dependence after analyzing brain activity responsible for dependence or addiction.
Dealing with alcohol addiction
Getting alcohol out of the system of people addicted to it is the first step of treatment. People battling severe alcohol addiction tend to experience withdrawal symptoms including sweating, seizures, shaking and hallucinations. A medically-supervised alcohol detox at an alcohol rehab center may be required to prevent potentially fatal complications. Detox also prepares the body to respond to the further course of treatment, which includes administering medication.
People with alcohol addiction may require admission to an inpatient treatment facility. Patients get to stay in a well-structured and disciplined live-in facility under constant medical supervision. It allows faster recovery and early return to normal life. Alcohol rehabilitation process at an inpatient facility may last for 30 days to six months or longer, depending on individual requirements.
Inpatient facilities are specialized in offering effective treatment programs including psychotherapies, with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) being the most popular and efficacious of all. CBT helps participants learn to deal with stressful life situations through healthy ways of coping. Moreover, many centers have customized rehabilitation programs combining experiential therapies, individual counseling and training on right nutrition and health.
The Alcohol Addiction Helpline of California is a useful online resource for credible information on alcohol rehab centers in California. Consult with one of our alcohol treatment specialists over online chat or by calling at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1715 to get more information on inpatient treatment for alcoholism in California.Continue reading