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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Health. How addictive is alcohol? Scientists on how the mechanism of addiction works

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Excessive alcohol consumption alters the signaling in the brain, which interferes with the ability to make decisions and control impulses, fueling continued drinking, new research shows. According to their authors, the discovery made thanks to research on mice may contribute to the development of new strategies for helping addicts.

There is no safe dose of alcohol that would not negatively affect the body. “It doesn’t matter how much you drink – the risk to a drinker’s health starts with the first drop of any alcoholic drink,” explained Dr Carina Ferreira-Borges in a statement from The Lancet Public Health published earlier this year on the World Health Organization’s website (WHO). The results of the latest research shed light on the addictive effects of alcohol.

Wine in bottles (illustration photo)Shutterstock

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How addiction works

The researchers published their detailed findings in the May issue of the scientific journal Brain Behavior and Immunity. Scientists from several American universities, including the State University of New York in Binghamton, decided to check how the consumption of different amounts of alcohol affects the brains of mice. Their research showed that addicted mice – compared to those that consumed moderate amounts of alcohol – had twice as many cells in the prefrontal cortex of the brain that produce interleukin-1, specifically IL-1β. Inflammation increased in addicted rodents in the brain and secreted substances that inhibit nerve signals. These changes persisted even after alcohol withdrawal.

There is no safe dose of alcohol (illustration photo)Shutterstock

In normal operation, such as during an infection, L-1β induces a rapid, transient inflammatory response that removes the threatening agent. Meanwhile, chronic alcohol exposure maintains a constant inflammation in the brain that can lead to ever-increasing neuronal damage, the researchers explain. It may be associated with with the observed decline in cognitive abilities in addicted people and impaired decision-making ability, which in turn drives continued drinking.

According to the researchers, the new findings have a chance to be used to develop better methods of helping people with addiction to alcohol and perhaps other psychoactive substances. Drugs that block the action of IL-1β are already available on the market today.

SEE ALSO: Due to illness, he lost his job, had to move, was threatened with charges. His body produces alcohol on its own

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