Research Finds Hormone ‘Aldosterone’ Linked to Alcohol Dependence
Investigators from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) conducted a new study that revealed that a hormone created by the adrenal glands, may be associated with alcohol addiction via specific brain receptors (mineralocorticoids.)
Moreover, hormone aldosterone directly contributes to alcohol addiction through parts of the brain related to alcohol abuse triggers.
The study has discovered a prospective brain pathway that could contribute to alcohol addiction, and the breakthrough may ultimately result in better treatment for individuals battling alcoholism.
Investigators underwent the research after past findings revealed a potential relationship between aldosterone and alcohol dependence – but this study significantly broadened the scope of research.
Aldosterone is most often associated with blood pressure control and electrolyte balance. However, it can also access the brain through receptors that offer a pathway to the prefrontal cortex and amygdala, which are two areas of the brain that are strongly associated with the development of alcohol dependence.
Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, senior author of the study, led researchers in a trial in which they tested the effects of alcohol on rats, monkeys, and humans through three separate studies to determine if an association exists between alcohol dependence and the aldosterone-mineralocorticoid reception relationship.
Findings revealed that higher drinking levels were associated with higher concentrations of aldosterone. Higher concentrations of the hormone were also linked to increased anxiety and cravings for alcohol.
Results from the human study were also corroborated by the rat and monkey trials, which also revealed that aldosterone levels increased over time with alcohol consumption. Also, lower levels of mineralocorticoid receptor gene expression in the amygdala were associated with increased alcohol consumption in both animals, and “anxiety-like behavior” in dependent rats.
Data culled from these studies suggest that the relationship between the hormone aldosterone and the mineralocorticoid receptor has a significant effect on the development of alcohol abuse and dependence.