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Liraglutide Could Be Used to Treat Alcohol Dependence

Study in animals suggests another use for diabetes drug

A study in rodents at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, shows that interfering with the hormone GLP-1 could be a target for treating alcohol dependence, an entirely novel concept.

The Swedish researchers found that a GLP-1 analog, liraglutide (Victoza, Novo Nordisk), which is used to treat type 2 diabetes as well as obesity, could also be used to treat alcohol dependence.

Usually, dopamine is released in the brain's reward center in response to drinking alcohol, which leads to a sense of euphoria. The GLP-1-like substance prevents the ability of alcohol to increase dopamine in reward areas in mice, suggesting they no longer experience a reward from alcohol.

In addition, the diabetes medication caused rats to decrease their alcohol intake, as well as reducing the motivation to drink alcohol in rats that were bred to drink a lot of alcohol. The medication also prevents relapse drinking in rats. Relapse drinking is a major problem for alcohol-dependent individuals.

"The GLP-1-like substance reduced the alcohol consumption by 30% to 40% in rats that drank large quantities of alcohol for several months," says Elisabet Jerlhag, researcher at Sahlgrenska Academy.

Similar mechanisms appear to regulate alcohol dependence and binge eating. The hormone GLP-1 is released from the intestines when people eat; it causes satiety. It is also released in the brain and thereby reduces food intake.

"The results of the present study suggest that the physiological role of GLP-1 extends beyond glucose homeostasis and food intake regulation and includes modulation of development of alcohol dependence. In addition we suggest that medications that resemble GLP-1 could be used to treat alcohol dependence in humans. This will now be studied further," says Elisabet Jerlhag at Sahlgrenska Academy.

The article, "The glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonist liraglutide attenuates the reinforcing properties of alcohol in rodents," was published in the journal Addict Biology.

Source: Medical Xpress; September 25, 2015.

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