L.A. Times examines the biochemical power that love – or at least the “love hormone” oxytocin – has to neutralize alcohol and beat alcoholism:
…[N]ew research finds that, in male rats at least, oxytocin also blunts the inebriating effects of moderately heavy doses of alcohol. It does so, the study found, by suppressing the activity of receptors in the brain–GABA receptors, which respond to the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid–that are key nodes in the circuitry of reward-related behaviors and addiction.
That finding prompted the study’s authors to suggest the intriguing proposition that oxytocin might reduce cravings across a range of addictive behaviors.
To explore the interaction between oxytocin and alcohol, researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia first gave young adult male rats an infusion of oxytocin and then administered a dose of alcohol roughly equivalent to a human drinking a bottle of wine over a few hours. On a battery of tests, a comparison group of rats that got no oxytocin was clearly drunk: their movements slowed, their muscle tone failed them, and when deposited on their backs, they had difficulty in performing the usually simple act of righting themselves.
But the rats that got the oxytocin first showed virtually no signs of intoxication.
The newest research comes against the backdrop of some other recent findings on oxytocin and alcohol, suggesting that the love drug also reduces alcohol consumption, cravings and withdrawal symptoms–not only in rats, but in alcohol-dependent humans as well.