New drug could reverses binge drinking effects on brain, help alcoholics: scientists

New drug could reverses binge drinking effects on brain, help alcoholics: scientists

New drug could reverses binge drinking effects on brain, help alcoholics: scientists

Updated 8 February 2018, 19:05 AEDT

Researchers may have found a drug that will help those who don't want to give up their big nights out on the booze, by reversing the harmful effects of heavy drinking on the brain.

Queensland researchers may have found a drug that will help ease the minds of those who don't want to give up their big nights out.

Tests of a new anxiety medication on mice show it can reverse the harmful effects of heavy drinking on the brain and may even help alcoholics beat the disease, Queensland University of Technology researchers say.

Neuroscientist Professor Selena Bartlett said two weeks of daily treatment with the drug tandospirone reversed the effects of 15 weeks of binge-like alcohol consumption on mice.

Tandospirone is already being used in China and Japan to treat anxiety and depression in people and has been found to have limited side effects.

Professor Bartlett said it was already known that alcohol reduced brain stem cells.

"I think the key here — which is the cool part — we've found a way to reverse that or change it, with something that we can actually give to people and I think that's a pretty significant breakthrough," Professor Bartlett said.

"We know that with heavy drinking you are inhibiting your ability to grow new neurons, brain cells — alcohol is specifically very damaging for neurons.

"Other studies in mice have shown that tandospirone improves brain neurogenesis, but this is the first time it has been shown that it can totally reverse the neurogenic deficits induced by alcohol."

Professor Bartlett said the discovery, by study co-authors QUT postdoctoral research fellows Dr Arnauld Belmer and Dr Omkar Patkar, came about serendipitously when they were looking at new treatment strategies for alcohol abuse and addiction.

She said it might even help reverse the effects of alcoholism.

"It might be able to help reboot the brain and reverse the deficits the alcohol abuse causes — both the inhibition to the brain's ability to regenerate, and the behavioural consequences that come from what alcohol is doing to the brain, like increases in anxiety and depression," she said.

She said the findings opened the way to determine if the drug could help in other substance-abuse disorders.