Anti-anxiety drugs prescribed to help alcoholics

According to researchers at the University of Cambridge, alcoholics who are given anti-anxiety drugs may forget they want a drink.

The breakthrough comes after work with rats that concluded that anti-anxiety drugs could erase the stimulus in their brains which causes a drink craving.

Propanolol is a beta-blocker drug prescribed to treat symptoms of anxiety and heart conditions . It is currently being used in trails to establish if it can block memories in the brain known to trigger relapses among alcoholics.

Beta-adrenergic receptors within the brain are believed to be involved in the process of creating emotional memory. The researchers hypothesise that by taking Propanolol, the beta-adrenergic receptors are inhibited and subsequently the so called “cue-drug memory” is deleted. This cue-drug memory is thought to be the prompts for an unconscious impulse to drink; therefore, by deleting it, an alcoholic may simply overlook the urge to drink.

Scientists believe that Propanolol may work in this context by removing any emotion from memories about drinking.

Preliminary results, which are thought to revolutionise approaches to the treatment of chronic alcoholism, are due to be reported at this week’s Cambridge Science Festival. Meanwhile, concerns are mounting as to how much an anti-anxiety pill can address the root cause and long term protection against alcoholism.

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