Researchers examine role of dopamine in alcoholism to analyze treatment path

Researchers examine role of dopamine in alcoholism to analyze treatment path

Americans are drowning in alcohol at an unprecedented rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol is responsible for approximately 88,000 deaths annually, coercing many scientists to study the ill effects of alcohol or treatment methodologies.

A research, titled ‘Convergent evidence from alcohol-dependent humans and rats for a hyperdopaminergic state in protracted abstinence’ was conducted to find out if dependence on alcohol results in an excess or scarcity of dopamine to analyze paths for future medical treatment for alcohol addiction. The study,  aimed at knowing more about the impact of dopamine in alcoholism and was conducted assuming deficiency of dopamine signaling during sobriety.

Researchers are interested in learning more about the effects of dopamine in alcoholism, because the condition has a high degree of relapse and behavioral approaches are often inadequate in addressing this addictive disease.


The researchers developed a systematic study of neuroadaptive changes in the dopamine systems of human alcoholics and rats. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in February 2016, involved examining the post-mortem brain samples from human alcoholics. The scientists discovered a strong down-regulation of D1 binding sites, which excite associated neurons, while D2 binding sites, which inhibit target neurons, remained unaffected.

Scientistsrevealed complex findings pointing out both hyper- and hypodopaminergic states during withdrawal phases from alcohol turning the recuperation experience from alcohol addiction to be uncomfortable and strenuous for those predisposed to abuse.

Evidence for development of a hypodopaminergic state during prolonged alcohol temperance, among other neuroadaptive changes, was also observed during the experiment. Increased level of activity and intense alcohol seeking behavior during the abstention phase was also taken into account.

Confirmation of the fact that hypodopaminergic state changes during more prolonged abstinence into a hyperdopaminergic state, as indicated by a ‘highly significant’ reduction in D1 binding sites in striatal tissue, with no change in D2 binding sites was found in the transgenic rat model made use for the purpose of the study.

Emphasizing on the findings, the researchers wrote, “Taken together, our studies provide convergent evidence for a hyperdopaminergic state of the reward system during protracted abstinence. This hyperdopaminergic state is associated with increased motor activity and augmented alcohol-seeking and use. We suggest that an enhanced risk for relapse exists both during acute withdrawal and long into protracted abstinence, but, according to our data, this vulnerability can be associated with either hypo- or hyperdopaminergia.”

Significance of the study

Though the researchers could not find an association between early withdrawal phenomena and dysregulations that occur later, the findings of the study open future paths to find out if hyperdopaminergic state is a marker for vulnerability to relapse and whether it might provide a path to specific types of dopamine-related interventions.

While further studies are required to explore the link between elevated dopamine levels and a relapse, scientists are trying to examine ways to arrest the problem of relapse.


Any kind of alcohol is harmful as it can turn into an addiction and create a havoc. The Alcohol Addiction Helpline of California strives to help people get rid of alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms during recovery and chance of relapse pose difficulty during convalescence. If you or your loved one is battling addiction, call at our 24/7 helpline 855-980-1715 or chat online to  know about the right treatment facilities available in your vicinity.

Continue reading

Leave a Reply