Over fourteen million Americans suffer from alcoholism/alcohol dependency. That’s approximately seven percent of the U.S. population. And data shows that women are increasingly vulnerable to the problem.
Researchers have long wondered whether the cause of alcohol dependency is idiosyncratic, varying from person to person.
A team working at the Scripps Research Institute in California believes they’ve found a clue to answering the question.
Research just published by the team reveals a key difference between the brains of alcohol-dependent versus non-dependent rats. When given alcohol, both groups showed increased activity in a region of the brain called the central amygdala (CeA)—but this activity was due to two completely different brain signaling pathways.
They found that when alcohol was consumed by non-alcohol dependent rats – the brains of those rats released a protein that locked onto other structures in the brain, signaling the rats to voluntarily reduce alcohol consumption.
When the researchers looked at the brains of alcohol-dependent rats – they found that those rats actually had many fewer of these regulating structures and therefore could not take advantage of the release of alcohol regulating proteins.
What caused the alcohol-dependent rats to have fewer regulating structures? Researchers believe that alcohol consumption itself may actually alter brain structure over time.
Where does all this leave us?
Most addiction specialists believe alcohol use disorder has many different root causes. These new research findings suggest doctors may someday be able to analyze certain symptoms or genetic markers in patients to determine which patients are likely to be susceptible to these structural abnormalities and might, therefore, benefit from the development of novel drug therapies that compensate for the problem.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction to alcohol – the alcohol rehab specialists at Aware Recovery Care can help immensely. Using a treatment model inspired by researchers at Yale, Aware Recovery Care is helping addicts recover at rates substantially above the national average. Learn more today at www.awarerecoverycare.com.