Diabetes Medication May Help Reduce Alcohol Depedence

First Posted: Sep 25, 2015 04:29 PM EDT

New findings published in Addiction Biology reveal that a new diabetes drug could help in treating alcohol dependence by decreasing its effects in the body.

"The results of the present study suggest that the physiological role of GLP-1 extends beyond glucose homeostasis and food intake regulation and includes modulation of development of alcohol dependence," said Elisabet Jerlhag, a researcher at Sahlgrenska Academy, in a news release. "In addition we suggest that medications that resemble GLP-1 could be used to treat alcohol dependence in humans."

Liraglutide, sold as Victoza, is typically used for patients with diabetes who are also obese. It works by regulating the glucagon-like peptide 1, or GLP-1, involved with stimulation of insulin secretion and glucagon release.

Researchers worked to determine if the mechanism that controls hunger in the body could be regulated in a similar way for alcohol consumption in mice bred to have alcohol-related behaviors similar to those in humans with varying levels of alcohol use disorder.

Study results revealed that the drug suppressed the effects of alcohol on the dopamine system, decreasing its pleasurable effects and the motivation for the rats to drink.

In fact, the GLP-1-like substance cut consumption of alcohol in the rats down by 30 to 40 percent, even after drinking large quantitites of alcohol for several months. 

GLP-1 is the second pharmaceutical method researchers found in recent months to be effective against alcohol dependence after the blood pressure medication isradipine was shown to suppress or erase memories that fed alcohol and cocaine addiction in mice.

Researchers in the new study reported that GLP-1 also has been previously shown to reduce desire for amphetimine, cocaine and nicotine cravings in ways similar to its effects on alcohol use.

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