In a new study from UCSF, researchers have developed a dual-drug therapy for alcohol use disorder (AUD), without the side effects or complications linked to current treatment regimens.
The approach had highly successful results in animals and may be applicable to other drugs that are often abused.
The team suggests that alcoholism and other substance abuse disorders are the results of reinforced pathways in the brain and that those pathways can be blocked or redirected, ending cravings and habitual behavior.
Current pharmaceutical options for alcoholism attempt to change behavior by making alcohol consumption an unpleasant experience and some require patients to abstain for several days before beginning treatment.
In previous work, the team had shown that consuming alcohol activates the enzyme mTORC1 in the brain.
They also had found that blocking the activity of mTORC1 with the FDA-approved compound rapamycin, used to treat some types of cancer and suppress the immune response in transplant patients, may halt cravings in alcohol use disorder.
But mTORC1 contributes to a bevy of other bodily tasks related to metabolism and liver function, and people taking the drug for an extended period often develop liver toxicity, glucose intolerance, and other side effects.
In the study, the team developed a dual-drug therapy that makes the drug rapamycin negate its effect until it enters the brain. This could strongly reduce the side effects.
The team says a similar strategy is being explored in treating other conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease.
Those trials involve different drugs, but the underlying principle is the same: one drug results in the desired effect in the brain, while its activity is blocked by a molecule that isn’t able to cross the blood-brain barrier.
The team notes that while they see addiction with a wide chemical array of molecules—alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, opiates, and the like—the addictive behavior that results from each is the same.
It suggests that this approach can be applied to other drugs of abuse as well, essentially solving the problem of addiction.
If you care about alcoholism, please read studies about your age may decide whether alcohol is good or bad for you and findings of people over 40 need to prevent dangerous alcohol/drug interactions.
For more information about alcohol and your health, please see recent studies about moderate alcohol drinking linked to high blood pressure and results showing that type 2 diabetes: Small reduction in alcohol, big reduction in heart disease risk.
The study is published in Nature Communications. One author of the study is Dorit Ron, Ph.D.
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