A new study published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity has found a correlation between the brain’s immune system and alcohol drinking behaviors at night. Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia have successfully shut down the impulse to drink in mice by giving them a drug that stops a certain response from the brain’s immune system.
The receptor that the researchers believed was linked to alcohol drinking behavior was Toll-like Receptor 4, or TLR4, and during the course of their study they administered, Naltrexone, which is known to block TLR4, to the mice. What they discovered is that by simply blocking the response of TLR4 they could effectively cut off the mice’s desires to drink, in particular, alcohol-drinking behavior at night, and they witnessed “a significant reduction in alcohol drinking behavior by mice that had been given Naltrexone.”
The researchers postulated that the reason that many individuals, and the mice in the study, have a greater affinity for exhibiting alcohol drinking behavior at night is due to the fact that the body’s natural circadian rhythm affects the brain’s rewards signals and the time that it is affected most is at night.
Those involved in the study also pointed out that alcohol is one of the most widely used, and abused substances on the planet and so being able to produce an effect where desire for alcohol is reduced and alcohol drinking behavior can be controlled is incredibly important. The amount of deaths that occur in the U.S. alone from drunk driving every year averages in the tens of thousands, which makes up roughly 30% of all traffic-related death. Many of these deaths occur at night when alcohol drinking behavior is at its highest, so what these researchers have discovered not only has the potential to save people from the misery of alcoholism, but also it has the potential to save the lives of millions of people around the world.
Is This a Cure for Alcoholism?
What the researchers have discovered in regards to the immune system and alcohol drinking behavior is incredibly interesting and it poses the question, were these rats considered to be alcoholic, if that is possible, and if they were not, what effect does Naltrexone have on those who are alcoholic.
Anyone who has been in detox, or has battled addiction for opioids or alcohol more than likely has heard of Naltrexone before, or possibly even has used it before. This is a drug that stops the activity of opioids in the system and is supposed to curb cravings to drink alcohol and in some cases cravings for opioids. While this drug does work as intended and can be used in order to help keep cravings at bay, for those individuals who have shown to be of the alcoholic mind, this drug is little more than a temporary solution. What this means is that Naltrexone, by itself, can temporarily help with cravings to drink or use opioids, but in the long term does not have a great track record for keeping alcoholics or addicts sober.
Part of the reason for this is because the drug does not, in fact, constitute a cure for alcoholism, but rather only acts as a way to manage the symptoms of alcoholism, i.e. cravings for drinking, on a short-term basis. The same can be said for Suboxone and other such drugs that can help an individual to stop using illegal narcotics but do not in the long term offer the sort of solution needed to overcome addiction.
As it currently stands, there is no cure for alcoholism or addiction, and there may in fact never be one. These illnesses are incredibly complex, as they attack the entirety of an individual and affect those afflicted, socially, mentally, physically, and even spiritually (in even the loosest sense of the word). While these things do not mean that a cure for alcoholism cannot be synthesized, it does mean that any cure for this problem is going to be incredibly difficult to create, and could take years and years to come up with.
Would You Take a Cure?
An interesting question that is sometimes posed in 12 Step fellowships across the world is if there was a cure for alcoholism or addiction, would you take? Some people stand firm in saying that they would not because it would mean that they would no longer have the fellowship that they created and they would no longer need to enact the program of the 12 Steps into their lives, while others say they would love to drink or drug with impunity again.
Neither of these two answers is right or wrong, but rather they are just people’s opinions and how they feel about their addiction. Some may have a stronger desire to rejoin “normal” life, while others feel a stronger draw towards the life of sobriety they have created for themselves. What is most compelling is what it would mean if a cure was created and it could be administered to children. This would a world where no teen would ever have to battle addiction, no parent would ever have to bury a child due to substance abuse issues, and no child would ever have to experience a parent’s alcoholism or addiction. This is hard to actually imagine, but maybe one day we’ll experience it.
So what would you do if a cure were available? Would you take it so that you would be able to drink or use drugs again without having a problem? Or would you continue on in your path of sobriety? Let us know in the comments below.