Molecular Basis of Alcohol Withdrawal

One of the more important steps in creating new alcohol and drug addiction treatments that work is to learn more about how addiction affects the human body. Physical dependence is a main player in substance addiction, and dealing with the withdrawal symptoms is something that a drug rehab program must cope with on a regular basis. Learning more about the medical basis for these symptoms allows for more effective treatments to be developed and utilized at your local rehab center.

Withdrawal from alcohol has a number of symptoms, including anxiety, agitation, tremors, and even seizures for some people. While these symptoms can be alleviated to an extent with additional small doses of alcohol, this only perpetuates the dependency that the patient has joined the addiction treatment program to break away from. Because the alcohol works to relieve the symptoms, researchers see the situation as one of “alcohol-induced adaptation” within the brain itself.

To learn more about this effect on the brain, neuroscientists from the University of Southampton performed a study using a specific type of worm, Caenorhabditis elegans. Believe it or not, the brain of this worm has a similar reaction to alcohol as a human brain does. The aim of the scientists was to study how alcohol affected the nerve circuits and thus the behavior in the worms.

The study did show that small doses of alcohol relieved the deep body bends the worms suffered from during withdrawal. More importantly, a certain mutant worm that lacked specific neuropeptides (eg1-3) had a notable resistance to the withdrawal symptoms. Mammals also have neuropeptides, and this study further supports the idea that these are tied to the body’s response to alcohol.

Obviously, this research is still a long way off from making a major impact in an addiction program. More advances are being made all the time, and the fact of the matter is that the addiction treatments of the future may bear little resemblance to the drug and alcohol rehab facilities of today. However, that doesn’t mean that today’s treatments can’t help you face your addiction demons right now if needed.