New Alcohol Research May Help Alcoholics Curb Their Appetite For the Sauce

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With 17 million Americans suffering from alcohol related problems, whether it be a health concern, an addiction or some negative situation that has been caused by alcohol or alcoholism, it’s about time that a brave new study be conducted in order to help those millions of people who can’t live without the booze. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are testing a new treatment that may help heavy drinkers cut back significantly on their drinking. Inside one of their hospitals they have built a bar. Everything looks legitimate, but where there would be tequila or beer there is only colored water. It may seem strange that doctors and researchers have built a replica bar inside a trusted medical institution, but their bar/laboratory should cue their volunteer drinkers’ urge to drink by offering them a new hormonal therapy medication called Ghrelin. At least that’s what they are hoping for. The hospital does in fact have a stash of alcohol in it’s storage rooms, ready to be sent up to the fake bar so the volunteers can smell the alcohol, thus increasing their urge to drink. It is possible that the volunteers will consume the alcohol as well, just to see if the new treatment (in pill form) will have a positive impact on those drinkers who decide to drink while undergoing treatment for their alcohol addiction.

“The goal is to create almost a real-world environment, but to control it very strictly,” said lead researcher Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, who is testing how a hormone named ghrelin that sparks people’s appetite for food also affects their desire for alcohol, and if blocking it helps.

One of the main reasons fueling this study is that researchers have noticed that alcoholics come in a wide variety of forms. There is no one-size-fits-all therapy that applies to every alcoholic who passes through a rehab facility, thus making the need for some sort of medical treatment (with a pill) so attractive to researchers and addiction specialists who often see alcoholics relapse or give up on their therapy. Not to mention the fact that alcoholism is based on a number of factors like genes and environment, thus making treatment for alcoholics very difficult. There do exist a few medications to help alcoholics quit, but the number of people who receive them are very low, and if one decides to go the route of therapy and rehabilitation, many often don’t receive the care they need.

Back in NIH’s bar lab, one of about a dozen versions around the country, the focus is on ghrelin, the hormone produced in the stomach that controls appetite via receptors in the brain. It turns out there’s overlap between receptors that fuel overeating and alcohol craving in the brain’s reward system.

Will this drug therapy be the answer to alcoholism? Maybe, maybe not, but what the scientists at NIH have going is a huge step forward in battling one of the worst addictions on the planet. The Ghrelin treatment may save a lot of lives by becoming one of the first drugs that can be reliably administered to addicts, and along with therapy and rehabilitation it could prove to be a very useful tool for addicts to use when they are ready to quit drinking.



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Sobriety Foundation

New Alcohol Research May Help Alcoholics Curb Their Appetite For the Sauce

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