A widely used drug for heart and blood pressure could see a second act as a treatment for alcohol use disorder, new government-led research this week suggests. The study found evidence in both rodents and humans that the drug spironolactone can reduce craving and consumption of alcohol.
spironolactone has been in the medicine cabinet for decades and was first discovered in the late 1950s. It is a type of steroid mainly used for its diuretic effect, meaning it causes the loss of water and sodium due to increased urine output. It has long been used to reduce fluid buildup caused by conditions such as heart failure and kidney disease, reducing the risk of later serious complications; it is also used in combination with other medications to lower high blood pressure.
Over the years, it has become apparent that spironolactone is useful for other health conditions outside of these indications. For example, because it can block the production of androgen hormones associated with excessive oil production, it is: sometimes used to treat acne in women (in men, it causes low testosterone levels that are not worth the side effects). And some studies have begun to show that the receptors inhibited by spironolactone may also play a role in boosting people’s alcohol consumption. If so, the drug could help people who suffer from alcohol addiction – a chronic condition with few treatments.
To better understand the drug’s potential, researchers at the National Institutes of Health decided to study its effects on mice and rats designed to become intoxicated or dependent on alcohol. They found that increasing doses of spironolactone resulted in correspondingly lower alcohol consumption in both rodent species, male and female, and without possible adverse effects such as a decreased appetite for food and water.
A second part of the research analyzed the medical records of patients treated through Veterans Affairs, the nation’s largest integrated health care system. Compared to comparable control patients who did not take the drug, VA patients on spironolactone for other conditions reported a greater reduction in alcohol consumption afterward. And this reduction was greatest in people who reported the highest levels of alcohol consumption before taking the drug, as well as those taking the highest doses of spironolactone.
These findings, published In the journal Molecular Psychiatry Tuesday, there are not the kinds of definitive evidence needed to approve spironolactone as a new treatment for alcohol addiction. But the different lines of evidence make it strong that it’s now worth spending the time and resources to know for sure, the authors say.
“These are very encouraging findings,” study author George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said in a statement. pronunciation of the NIH. Taken together, the present study calls for conducting randomized, controlled trials of spironolactone in people with alcohol dependence to further assess its safety and potential efficacy in this population, as well as additional work to understand how spironolactone may reduce alcohol use.
There are three approved drugs for an alcohol addiction. Only two of these drugs, naltrexone and acamprosate, are considered effective first-line treatments (the third drug, disulfiram, causes symptoms such as nausea when someone tries to drink and is usually only recommended as a last resort). So, more treatments are definitely needed for this difficult-to-treat condition. To be estimated that 14.5 million Americans struggle with an alcohol addiction, defined as a chronic physical and emotional dependence on alcohol that harms themselves and others. But less than 10% of patients have received treatment in the past year, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.