Malaga Scientists Discover Possible New Therapeutic Treatment For Alcoholism

Image of a man with a hangover.

Image of a man with a hangover. Credit: Michael Traitov/

THE results of a recent study conducted by a group of scientists in Malaga could help to establish a new therapeutic approach to alcoholism.

Led by the IBIMA Plataforma Bionand Institute, their research concluded that alcohol affects key functions of the body which are regulated by the endocannabinoid system.

Although alcohol is legal and socially accepted in many contexts, it can have devastating consequences for the physical, mental, and social well-being of those with alcohol use disorders or alcoholism.

Excessive consumption of this substance is a problem that affects the health of millions of people globally. It is one of the main causes of disability and mortality around the world.

Therapeutic approaches to treat alcoholism have been mainly based on psychological therapy and social support until now.

Current therapies vary from person to person

While there are some medications approved to reduce alcohol dependence and aid withdrawal, their effectiveness may be limited and varies from person to person.

As a result, scientists have been working to find new pharmacological ways to treat alcoholism in a more effective and personalised way.

After carrying out their study, the researchers discovered that the endocannabinoid system offered promising therapeutic potential in the treatment of alcoholism thanks to the modulating role that it exhibits in the brain.

This has led the team to believe that they have established a better understanding of how the system works, which they hope could eventually help to treat the problem of alcoholism.

Dr Antonia Serrano from the Neuropsychopharmacology group of the IBIMA BIONAND Platform was the principal investigator. He is a member of the Clinical Mental Health Unit of the Regional University Hospital in Málaga.

Luis Natividad, an associate professor at the University of Texas was a co-collaborator. Their study was promoted by the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in which they examined the relationship between alcohol consumption and the endocannabinoid system in the human brain.

What are endocannabinoids?

Endocannabinoids are chemicals naturally produced by the body that interact with receptors on neurons in various regions of the brain.

These receptors are involved in a wide range of physiological and psychological functions, including the regulation of mood, appetite, and the reward system, which is a group of neural structures responsible for positive emotions.

The article discusses how chronic alcohol use can affect the function of the endocannabinoid system in the brain. This included alcohol-induced alterations in endocannabinoid-mediated synaptic transmission and the modulation of alcohol-related behaviours through the manipulation of elements of the endocannabinoid system.

It also studied the influence of endocannabinoid dysregulation on withdrawal-induced anxiety behaviours in the human body.

They studied the endocannabinoid system

Starting from this base, the researchers focused on discussing those studies that explore the possible therapeutic relevance of the manipulation of this signalling system in the brain in the different stages of alcohol use disorder.

This means that the endocannabinoid system appeared to be a promising option for treating alcoholism due to the important role it played in how the brain works.

As explained by Dr Serrano: ‘This review work provides a comprehensive view of the complex interactions between alcohol and endocannabinoids in brain regions related to addictive behaviours and stress response, which can help us identify potential pharmacological targets’.

According to Fernando Rodríguez de Fonseca, a study collaborator, ‘In recent years, scientific interest has grown in the role played by lipid signals such as the endocannabinoid system, not only as potential therapeutic tools but also as biomarkers of vulnerability or risk of relapse during withdrawal in people with addictive disorders’.

The objective of this research work – focused on the interaction between alcohol consumption and the endocannabinoid system – was to promote future investigations that will delve into the underlying mechanisms and hopefully open new avenues for the treatment of alcohol addiction and its prognosis, as reported by

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at