Research from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (aka NIAAA, a division of the National Institutes of Health) has revealed that a specific hormone, aldosterone, could be linked to the potential for alcohol abuse in individuals.
Published in Molecular Psychiatry, these new findings could signal a breakthrough in treatment for alcoholism.
While the research has only proved a correlation, rather than a direct link, the results of the study certainly bear further scrutiny by addiction treatment and other medical professionals.
What is Aldosterone?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other agencies state that aldosterone regulates the body’s electrolyte and fluid balance. The hormone binds to mineralocorticoid receptors, or MRs, some of which are located in the brain, particularly in the amygdala and prefrontal cortex.
When a person struggles with substance abuse, their emotions and decision making may be affected by dysfunction of the amygdala, which is where aldosterone comes into play.
In a press release written by the NIH, study co-author Dr. Kathleen Grant stated that, “The amygdala is a key regulator of emotion and stress and its adaptation to aldosterone signaling due to chronic alcohol drinking illustrates fundamental adaptations across organ systems that underlie the pathological state associated with AUD [alcohol use disorder].”
With this in mind, the research also suggests that clinicians could take this newfound understanding of the brain and alcohol abuse to better tailor treatments developed specifically for alcoholism.
As more research becomes available about alcoholism and its links within our genetic and hormonal makeup, it is obvious that alcohol use disorders must be studied with the intent to create treatments that will help those who are struggling worldwide.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) estimates over 17.6 million people suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence in the United States alone. This statistic does not cover those who engage in binge drinking or at-risk behaviors that may lead to alcoholism in the future.
Alcohol’s effects on the brain have been well-documented; understanding these effects and connections moves us further toward the goal of providing treatment for those who are in need, as well as preventing a continued cycle of alcohol-related deaths.
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