Despite the success of psychosocial interventions such as Alcoholics Anonymous, chronic alcohol abuse remains a significant public health problem. Noting that stress is a relapse trigger in alcoholism, George et al. explored whether pharmacological inhibition of the neurokinin 1 receptor (NK1R), a mediator of the brain’s stress response, would alleviate symptoms associated with alcohol dependence. Mice genetically deficient in NK1R consumed less alcohol than controls. A drug that antagonizes NK1R was used in a small, controlled study of recently detoxified alcoholic inpatients and showed promising activity, such as reducing alcohol cravings. However, these latter results need to be confirmed in much larger, longer-term studies.
D. T. George, J. Gilman, J. Hersh, A. Thorsell, D. Herion, C. Geyer, X. Peng, W. Kielbasa, R. Rawlings, J. E. Brandt, D. R. Gehlert, J. T. Tauscher, S. P. Hunt, D. Hommer, M. Heilig, Neurokinin 1 receptor antagonism as a possible therapy for alcoholism. Science 319, 1536-1539 (2008). [Abstract] [Full Text]