The study identifying how the naltrexone; a medication using to treat alcohol use disorder, reducing craving and consumption in heavy drinkers. Although naltrexone is an approving treatment for alcohol use disorder; it only works in some people, which has led doctors to stop prescribing the drug.
The new findings providing a better understanding of how naltrexone works in the brain; which could help identify people who would benefit from the treatment. As naltrexone is a nonselective opioid receptor antagonist using as a treatment for alcohol use disorder. However, only modest clinical effects have been observing; possibly because of limited knowledge about the biological variables affecting the efficacy of naltrexone.
Although naltrexone binds to multiple molecules in the brain. But the study focusing on one of its targets; the kappa opioid receptor, to see if the molecule influencing alcohol drinking and how much people want to drink alcohol. Heavy alcohol use is estimated to result in 5.3% of all deaths worldwide. Moreover, this percentage is higher in younger groups; for example, 13.5% of deaths in those between 20 and 39 years of age are attributable to alcohol.
Alcohol use disorder
Heavy drinkers with more kappa opioid receptors in the brain experienced a greater urge to drink alcohol. They also responded less to naltrexone treatment; meaning they continued to drink the same amount after receiving naltrexone. As the kappa opioid receptor activation has being implicating in the dark side of addiction; in this case the motivation to drink even when alcohol is no longer rewarding.
This innovative study making the case that some therapeutic effects of naltrexone may be mediating by its effects on this target. The researchers performed the study in non treatment seeking heavy drinkers who were allowing to self-administer alcoholic drinks before and after a week of naltrexone treatment.
Kappa opioid receptors
The findings are the first to reveal the role of the kappa opioid receptor in naltrexone’s effect on craving and drinking in people with alcohol dependence. These results are an important step forward in our understanding of alcohol-related behaviors and how naltrexone functions. They highlight the importance of the kappa opioid receptor in alcohol use disorders and its treatment.
But the other biological variables likely affect how well naltrexone works in different people; and more research is needed to discover who will or will not benefit from naltrexone treatment. The kappa opioid receptors is implicating in drinking and craving following naltrexone therapy in alcohol use disorder.