ADVERTISEMENT

Oxytocin beats booze cravings

A whiff of “love hormone” may help people beat alcoholism.

Cort Pedersen, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his team gave 11 alcohol-dependent volunteers two daily doses of an oxytocin nasal spray or a placebo during the first three days of a detox program. The volunteers also received lorazepam – a detox drug – when their withdrawal symptoms reached a specific level.

The oxytocin group had fewer alcohol cravings and milder withdrawal symptoms than the placebo group, and used just one-fifth of the lorazepam (Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research).

“Four [oxytocin] volunteers didn’t need any lorazepam at all,” says Pedersen.

This is good news because lorazepam is highly addictive. While it reduces anxiety and seizures during alcohol withdrawal, users can experience insomnia and cravings when they come off the drug.

Although it is unclear how oxytocin – famed for its role in social bonding – helps to aid withdrawal, it has no known side effects. Pedersen hopes that alcoholics who take the hormone will therefore be less likely to experience the unpleasant symptoms that can lead to relapse.