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New drug against relapse?

An experimental drug developed by the pharmaceutical company Pzifer has potential to prevent alcohol dependents from having relapses after treatment, a study on mice conducted by the Oregon Health and Science University recently found.

The experimental drug known as CP 154,526 was able to block a particular behavior in the mice that resembles the euphoric feeling caused by alcohol consumption, even with the large amount of alcohol that the mice were made to consume. Dr. Tamara Phillips, one of the researchers explains that this finding is very relevant to treatment since most people who seek such are those who are already heavily exposed and addicted to the intoxicating substance.

This current study takes off from earlier research which showed that chronic exposure alcohol leads some people to have brains sensitized to the substance, an effect lingers even after those people begin to quit drinking. In the long run, when these people consume alcohol again, they experience an even higher level of sensation due to the lingering effect of their previous dependency.

Phillips and the rest of the research team found evidence that brain receptor called CRF1 is the possible cause of this heightened feeling. They explained that alcohol consumption induces the body to release a certain substance, the “corticotrophin-releasing factor” or CRF, which activates particular receptors in the brain such as the CRF1.

Following this finding, the team conducted an experiment to compare the behavioural responses of mice with CRF1 and lab-bred ones without the said receptors to high dosages of alcohol. They observed that the latter group of mice did not exhibit the same euphoric jolt experienced by the normal group.

The team then performed a similar experiment, but in this one they gave the normal mice the experimental drug prior to testing for any euphoric response. This drug has the capacity to prevent CRF from reaching the CRF1 receptor. Philips and her team observed that the normal mice given the drug did not feel the heightened sensation demonstrated by the normal mice not treated with the said drug.

Phillips explains that the result of their study is highly applicable to relapses caused by stress because the CRF1 brain receptor is known to trigger the body’s responses to stress. “I think if you block this receptor, you might be able to decrease drinking in response to post traumatic stress disorder (PSTD),” the researcher adds.

The next step to take following this finding is to test if CP 154,526 is safe to be used in humans and once found to be such, it could then be tried to determine if can indeed prevent relapse from alcohol addiction.