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Love hormone used to treat alcohol dependence?

Oxytocin, a hormone that affects feelings of closeness and well-being and is associated with long-term mating behaviors, has been found to counter the effects of a beer buzz. This according to recent research from the University of Regensburg, in Germany and the University of Sydney, in Australia. The relationship between oxytocin and alcohol was explained Dr. Michael Bowen in a recent press release.

The findings indicate that alcohol remained in the rats system and that oxytocin prevented the intoxicating effects on the animal. Dr. Bowen explained that “in the rat equivalent of his sobriety test, the rats given alcohol and oxytocin passed with flying colors, while those given alcohol without oxytocin were seriously impaired.”

It is believed that the oxytocin being present in the system prevented GABA-a receptors in the rat brain from being activated. This suggests that the rat will have alcohol in its system but not exhibit any of the intoxicating effects frequently seen with GABA-a receptor activation. GABA is one of the most powerful inhibitory receptors in our mind and body is also associated with sleep function. GABA may also be responsible for the seizure activity associated with alcohol withdrawal.

Many people who use alcohol excessively, to the extent where it interferes with their happiness in functioning, depend on alcohol to manage thoughts and/or emotions that are unpleasant. Many times these techniques were learned early in life and are even adaptive reflexes to getting need attention from the environment.

Attachment theory looks at how our connection to early people we depended on, for caretaking, affects our emotional regulation (release of oxytocin). Many times people who struggle with alcohol dependence have had disruption in these important relationships or receiving the attention they needed. It is possible that oxytocin which is released during these powerful bonds early in life continues to play a role with alcoholics as adults. This is interesting new research that seems to follow our understanding of emotional regulation and attachment as they relate to alcohol abuse and probably most substances or relationships of abuse.


Dr. Charles R. Davenport helps people struggling with addiction better understand and find change in their lives. If you might want help with an addiction call the Sarasota or Venice offices of Charles R. Davenport, Psy.D., LLC. at 941-321-1971.


Here is another article on the press release.

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