V.V.N. Phani Babu Tiruveedhula, an Indian American student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has discovered new compounds that can reduce an alcoholic’s impulse to drink.
A new drug to help combat these urges could be ready for the market within five to six years.
Scientists found in tests using rats bred to crave alcohol that the compounds drastically diminished drinking.
In addition, the scientists observed limited side effects traditionally seen in alcoholism treatment drugs, such as depression and losing the ability to experience pleasure. The drugs also appeared to reduce anxiety in the rats who craved alcohol, but not the control rats.
“Alcoholism is a major problem. We need a better treatment right now,” said Tiruveedhula, a graduate student at U.W. Milwaukee. Studies found that alcohol triggers the brain to release dopamine, a neurochemical whose levels increase in response to eating, sex or listening to music.
Some of the drugs now available to treat alcoholism are geared toward dopamine, which prevents people from becoming happy when consuming an alcoholic beverage.
The medications, however, come from a class of compounds called opioid antagonists, which can lead to depression. They also are addictive and could lead to drug abuse. Tiruveedhula has made several new beta-carboline compounds – which may be less addictive – that could represent the future of treatment of alcoholism. Tiruveedhula and his team will present the results at the national meeting and exposition of the American Chemical Society in Boston this month.