Researchers have found a new drug that may eventually help to change drinking behaviour in adults who used to binge during their adolescent years.
"During our teen years, the brain is still in a relatively immature state. Binge drinking worsens this situation, as alcohol undermines the normal developmental processes that affect how our brain matures," said lead author Jon Jacobsen, PhD student at the University of Adelaide, Australia.
"Therefore, when an adolescent who has been binge drinking becomes an adult, they're often left with an immature brain, which assists in the development of alcohol dependence," Jacobsen added.
For the study, published in the Journal Neuropharmacology, researchers observed that adolescent mice involved in binge drinking behaviour developed an increased sensitivity to alcohol as adults and engaged in further binge drinking.
The researchers were able to prevent some of these detrimental behaviours observed in adulthood, by giving mice a drug that blocks a specific response from the immune system in the brain.
The drug is (+)-Naltrexone, known to block the immune receptor Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4).
"This drug effectively switched off the impulse in mice to binge drink. The mice given this drug still sought out alcohol, but their level of drinking was greatly reduced," says senior author Professor Mark Hutchinson, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics at the University of Adelaide.
"We're excited by the finding that we can potentially block binge drinking in an adult after they have experienced such behaviour during adolescence, by stopping the activation of the brain's immune system. It's the first time this has been shown and gives us hope that our work has implications for the eventual treatment of alcohol addiction in adults," Hutchinson noted.