Study finds easier treatment for depression in alcoholics

Alcohol being the most commonly used addictive substance, its addiction is extensive in the United States. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, around 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults in the U.S. suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence. There are a several million more who engage themselves in risky and binge drinking patterns as well.

Psychiatric problems like depression are quite common among alcohol addicts, which make matters worse. However, a new study offers a ray of hope to the alcoholics who are battling depression and are unable to abstain from drinking.

The study findings

The study conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, originally published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, and highlighted by on February 2, 2016, shows that there can be a cure for alcoholics who suffer from treatment resistant depression and have a hard time remaining sober.

The researchers used two types of drugs in a mouse model: one, an anesthetic drug with antidepressant properties, and another, a drug that raises levels of a mood-enhancing natural chemical in the brain. Through a thorough analysis, they could understand that depressive-like symptoms can actually be alleviated in alcoholism.

In this investigation, the researchers actually first validated the drugs’ effects in a previously established mouse model of alcoholism, in which mice exhibited depression-like behavior after alcohol withdrawal.

The researchers tested a drug with antidepressant properties, called ketamine. This drug blocks the NMDA receptor in the brain; the same drug has long shown to have quick and long-lasting effects in humans suffering from depression. The mice were given this drug to see if it works, and the results were positive.

2-AG, an endocannabinoid, was also tested to understand the effects of raising brain levels by blocking the enzyme monoacylglycerol (MAG) lipase. Endocannabinoids are naturally produced endogenous receptors that have been implicated in depression and anxiety-like behavior.

An earlier study by the university had found that raising 2-AG levels with an MAG lipase inhibitor reduced stress-induced anxiety-like behaviors in mice. In the recent study, depressive symptoms after alcohol withdrawal were reversed after a treatment with a MAG lipase inhibitor was done, which had a similar effect like ketamine.

Danny Winder, Ph.D., professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics and of Psychiatry said, “We are excited to pursue the role of the endocannabinoid system further.” However, he added that the clinical use of ligands, that is compounds that bind the endogenous cannabinoid receptors are still in a very nascent stage.

The findings of the study can actually provide a window to develop novel and effective treatments which can work on those alcoholics which are suffering from depression simultaneously. But significant tests need to be carried out to understand the best treatment possible which would work on humans. Before the findings can be applied to individuals, more researches need to be conducted in this regard.

Way to recovery

The study’s findings might take some time to be applied on humans, but the fight against alcoholism must continue. Psychosocial and psychotherapeutic approaches can help treat depression in alcoholics. Cognitive behavioral therapy coupled with motivational interviewing can maximize the chances of recovery.

If you or your loved one is battling depression as well as alcoholism, please seek medical help immediately. The Florida Alcohol Addiction Helpline can help you get the best treatments suiting your situation. Chat online or call 866-220-5381 today for more information.