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Alcohol Disorder

Top Heart Medication Could Help Alcohol Use Disorder Patients

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

A drug used to treat hypertension and heart failure could help patients battling alcohol use disorder, according to the results of a recent study.

Researchers theorize there is a connection between the actions of mineralocorticoid receptors, which are located in several organs that help regulate fluid and electrolyte balance, and alcohol use. Specifically, more activity in these receptors might lead to stronger cravings for alcohol.

Thus, investigators sought to understand how to slow the action in these receptors and possibly curtail alcohol desires. Researchers experimented with the potassium-sparing diuretic called spironolactone, which clinicians prescribe to treat hypertension and heart failure. Importantly, this medication is a known mineralocorticoid receptor blocker.

First, a group of researchers tried giving higher doses of spironolactone to mice and rats. They noticed a decline in alcohol consumption in those animals. Then, in a parallel trial, another group of researchers prescribed the drug to a large sample of people from the Veterans Affairs system. There was an association between taking spironolactone and self-reported reductions in alcohol consumption.

There are three FDA-approved drugs to treat alcohol use disorder. Someday soon, spironolactone could be added to clinicians’ armamentarium.

“Taken together, the present study argues for conducting randomized, controlled studies of spironolactone in people with alcohol use disorder to further assess its safety and potential efficacy in this population, as well as additional work to understand how spironolactone may reduce alcohol drinking,” said George F. Koob, PhD, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and study co-author.

For more on this and related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of Clinical Cardiology Alert and Internal Medicine Alert.