Washington DC [India], Oct. 1 (ANI
): In a recent study, researchers have found that alcohol produces the same neural and molecular changes as drugs that are proven to be effective antidepressants.
The study's principal author, Kimberly Raab-Graham, said: "Because of the high comorbidity between major depressive disorder and alcoholism there is the widely recognized self-medication hypothesis, suggesting that depressed individuals may turn to drinking as a means to treat their depression."
"We now have biochemical and behavioral data to support that hypothesis," she added.
This, however, does not suggest that alcohol can be regarded as an effective treatment for depression.
"There's definitely a danger in self-medicating with alcohol. There's a very fine line between it being helpful and harmful, and at some point during repeated use self-medication turns into addiction," Graham said.
Using an animal model the team found that a single dose of an intoxicating level of alcohol, which has been shown to block NMDA receptors (proteins associated with learning and memory), worked in conjunction with the autism-related protein FMRP to transform an acid called GABA from an inhibitor to a stimulator of neural activity.
In addition, the research team found that these biochemical changes resulted in non-depressive behavior lasting at least 24 hours.
This study demonstrated that alcohol followed the same biochemical pathway as rapid antidepressants in the animals, while producing behavioral effects comparable to those observed in people.
In recent years, single doses of rapid antidepressants such as Ketamine have proven capable of relieving depressive symptoms within hours and lasting for up to two weeks, even in individuals who are resistant to traditional antidepressants.
"Additional research is needed in this area, but our findings do provide a biological basis for the natural human instinct to self-medicate. They also define a molecular mechanism that may be a critical contributor to the comorbidity that occurs with alcohol use disorder and major depressive disorder," Graham said.
The study has been published in the current issue of the journal Nature Communications. (ANI