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Folk Medicine Therapy May Prevent Alcoholic Relapse

Study in rodents used synthetic form of substance found in the kudzu vine

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 12 (HealthDay News) -- A synthetic form of a substance found in the kudzu vine can reduce drinking among alcoholics and help prevent relapse, a new study suggests.

Daidzin, the substance in kudzu, has long been used in traditional Chinese folk medicine to treat alcoholism. It inhibits human aldeyhyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH-2), which metabolizes alcohol into acetaldehyde. This results in an accumulation of acetaldehyde, which has unpleasant effects that include a flushing reaction and feeling ill, according to background information in a news release from Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, which is publishing the findings online and in its November print issue.

In the study, researchers found that a synthetic ALDH-2 inhibitor called CVT-10216 reduced drinking and prevented relapse in rodents. CVT-10216 increased acetaldehyde while the rodents were drinking alcohol and later decreased dopamine in the brain region that controls relapse during abstinence.

"We had several key findings," the study's corresponding author, Ivan Diamond, vice president of neuroscience at Gilead Science and professor emeritus of neurology, cellular and molecular pharmacology and neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco, said in the news release.

"We found that, one, CVT-10216 is a highly selective reversible inhibitor of ALDH2 without apparent toxicity," Diamond said. "This means that it does not cause serious damage to other proteins and functions. Two, treatment with our ALDH-2 inhibitor increases acetaldehyde in the test tube and in living animals. And three, we found that our ALDH-2 inhibitor suppresses drinking in a variety of rodent drinking models."

Most importantly, he said, they "also found that CVT-10216 prevents the usual increase in drinking (binge drinking) that occurs after five days of abstinence, and also prevents relapse to drink, even when alcohol is not present."

Diamond added, "This means that something else besides acetaldehyde helps to suppress craving for, and prevent relapse to, drinking alcohol. We believe that 'something else' is dopamine."

More information

The American Psychological Association has more about treating alcohol-related disorders.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, news release, Aug. 11, 2009

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