Thursday, March 8, 2007

Synthetic compound blocks alcoholism in rats

Researchers have created a synthetic compound, MTIP, blocks the activity of Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) in the brain under stress while not interacting under normal situations.

"CRF levels in the brain rise in the short term after drinking; in subjects that are not dependent, this activation returns to normal within a day or so. The new study shows that the CRF system becomes overactive in the long term in animals with a history of alcohol dependence, increasing the risk for relapse. "

Researchers speculate that they might be able to use MTIP to eventually treat many diseases in addition to alcoholism where CRF levels are high. This includes anxiety and depression.

If this someday turns into a prescription medication, it could change the field of chemical dependency practice.

Currently, there are no 'good' drugs for alcoholism. The three main ones for preventing alcohol relapse are naltrexone (Revia), acamprosate (Campral), or disulfiram (Antabuse). The first two are supposed to decrease cravings and/or decrease the euphoria associated with alcohol. The third, and oldest (antabuse), helps to curb alcohol relapse by making you physically ill if you drink (you will vomit, have nausea, etc...).

Surprisingly (to me, at least) I have more patients on antabuse than the other 2 combined. It is likely due to the culture of my clinic, but many patients who choose antabuse and stay on it really do swear by it. In general, I am not a firm believer in aversion therapies, but having patients who choose antabuse as a deterrent to relapse, and watching it actually work for them really forces me to reconsider.

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