Link between alcohol consumption, neuroinflammation has possible treatment implications



– Recent discoveries regarding the relationship between alcohol consumption and neuroinflammation suggest a possible role for adjunctive treatments and supplements in addiction treatment, according to Shram Shukla, MD.

For example, a qualitative review of the literature over the past 2-3 years showed that the “neuroinflammatory process in and of itself drives epigenetic changes, which ultimately upregulate neuroinflammation of the brain,” according to Dr. Shukla of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., who reported the findings in a poster at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.

In this video interview, he explained that this finding is important because “neuroinflammation leads to neurotoxicity, which leads to neuronal degeneration.”

“As we know, with patients who chronically abuse alcohol, they do have a level of cortical degeneration that we often see on imaging, so there is, perhaps, a role that this may play in that,” he added.

Dr. Shukla said he also found that the neuroinflammatory process, when it drives the epigenetic changes, affects the amygdala, which is known as a “high stress part of the brain.”

“What we found in animal models so far is that if we can impact where that epigenetic change occurs, we can prevent the anxiogenic behaviors we often see in alcohol withdrawal and abstinence; we associate that, in humans, to be the high-stress state we often see in patients when they ... are withdrawing from alcohol.”

This raised questions about whether certain medications and supplements, including vitamin C, pioglitazone, infliximab, and omega-3 fatty acids, could be of benefit, and it was shown that these do affect neuroinflammation and stop neurotoxicity from occurring – and also, in turn, prevent the epigenetic changes, he said.

The take-away is that there may be ways to augment what already is being done (using naltrexone, which works on the reward pathway, for example) to help patients with addiction.

“Now we have something, potentially ... that can do some of the ancillary stuff, working on the withdrawal effects, helping with the behavioral response that we see in patients that are suffering from addiction,” he said.

SOURCE: Shukla S et al. APA Poster Session 4, Poster 3.

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