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Diabetes Medication May Be Used In Treating Alcohol Dependence

Liraglutide use led to less alcohol intake and suppressed dopamine effects in rodents

A research report was published in Addiction Biology as an early study evaluating the use of liraglutide and its effects on alcohol dependence. Some evidence suggests GLP-1 receptors may also be found in reward centers in the brain. With such evidence, it may be feasible to suggest GLP-1 agonists could regulate such behaviors as alcoholism and decrease alcohol-seeking behavior.

The researchers bred the mice to drink alcohol and receive dopamine reward signals suggestive of addiction to it. In the study, rats reduced alcohol consumption by 30-40 percent over the course of months.

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Repeated treatment with liraglutide decreased alcohol self-administration. Furthermore, acute liraglutide treatment suppressed the effects of alcohol on the mesolimbic dopamine system leading to a prevention of alcohol’s deprivation effect.

These initial findings could prove useful for furthering research of the use of liraglutide for alcohol dependence in humans. Of course, researchers will need to find an appropriate dose, especially in adults with no diabetes who could be solely using the drug for alcohol dependence.

More interesting is the consideration of how the reward pathway and dopamine suppressing effects of liraglutide play a role into its reduction of weight in patients who take the medication for diabetes. While it has been established GLP-1 agonists promote early satiety that could lead to weight loss, the role of dopamine suppression and overeating is less established.

One thing is for certain, liraglutide will be further researched as a drug for alcohol dependence in humans moving forward.

Practice Pearls:

  • Some theories suggest liraglutide may play a role in the dopamine reward pathway due to the presence of GLP-1 receptors in the brain.
  • A recent study tested the use of liraglutide in laboratory rodents and measured how alcohol intake and dopamine levels changed when given liraglutide.
  • Liraglutide use led to less alcohol intake and suppressed dopamine effects in rodents suggesting it may be useful to research in humans moving forward.

Vallöf, Daniel, Paola Maccioni, Giancarlo Colombo et al. “The Glucagon-like Peptide 1 Receptor Agonist Liraglutide Attenuates the Reinforcing Properties of Alcohol in Rodents.” Addiction Biology (2015). Web. 2 Oct. 2015. <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/adb.12295/epdf>.