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Ghrelin hormone treatments may help with alcohol abuse

Kimberly Love

Approximately 17 million individuals across America abuse alcohol is some fashion, and if you are one of those people who have vowed to decrease your drinking consumption as a new year’s resolution in 2015, there may be some good news coming your way.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has recently simulated a bar within their laboratory, testing a possible new treatment to help alcohol abusers. Creating what is seemingly a ‘fully stocked’ bar, the laboratory contains bottles that are filled with colored water, that look like beer, wine, and even tequila. The researchers are conducting a study to see how the ghrelin hormone, which is known to send signals to your brain regarding food, might spark those same needs when alcohol is presented. Secreted from your stomach, the ghrelin hormone zeros in on the same area of the brain as food, and other addictive substances like nicotine, ethanol, and cocaine. Therefore, there may definitely be an overlap to how ghrelin affects heavy drinkers.

“The goal is to create almost a real-world environment, but to control it very strictly,” said lead researcher at the NIH, Dr. Lorenzo Leggio.

The concept is that those entering the fake bar will view their surroundings, specifically the beverages, causing their brain to spark a craving. While the amounts of ghrelin varies from individual to individual, Dr. Leggio’s team recently published a study in the fall of 2014 that provided additional insight. The project centered on injecting 45 heavy-drinking volunteers’ with different doses of ghrelin. The study revealed that with the extra hormone within their system, the individuals’ need to drink increased.

While the team continues to conduct research within their bar-lab, NIH’s goal of the study is to determine if an experimental pill can successfully assist people with breaking the cycle of excessive drinking. According to the NIH, there is ‘one-size-fits-all’ therapy when it comes to alcohol abuse treatment; however the research ‘bar’ can help pinpoint a major cause of excessive drinking, in order to help create new treatments to target the brain’s addiction cycle in different ways — and to find out which options work best in certain abusers.

Currently Leggio and his team of researchers are studying the effects of blocking

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