treat alcohol dependence

A study has reported that a currently available diabetes medication, liraglutide, could prove useful to treat alcohol dependence


Recently published in the journal Addiction Biology are a series of experiments conducted in rats to assess the effectiveness of a diabetes medication, liraglutide, in the treatment on alcohol dependence.

At the basis of the research is the hormone glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). GLP-1 is involved in the regulation of glucose-dependent stimulation of insulin secretion and release of glucagon during digestion. Due to its role in insulin secretion, analogs of GLP-1 are used in the treatment of diabetes. We have previously reported on the GLP-1 analog, liraglutide, as a weight management drug. GLP-1 receptors, however, have also been found in areas of the brain involved in reward. For example, areas of the brain involved in alcohol-induced, as well as amphetamine-induced, cocaine-induced, and nicotine-induced reward have been shown to contain these GLP-1 receptors. Researchers from the Sahlgrenska Academy, Sweden, in collaboration with the National Research Council of Italy, and Lund University, Sweden used this information as a basis to assess the effect of liraglutide on alcohol-related behaviours in a rat model.

The researchers found that treatment with liraglutide reduced the alcohol-dependent dopamine release in the brain of the rats. In addition, there was a significant decrease in alcohol intake in the rats treated with liraglutide, compared with the rats that were not treated with liraglutide. Furthermore, treatment with liraglutide was shown to reduce the alcohol deprivation effect in these rats. That is, following alcohol deprivation, rats treated with liraglutide consumed less alcohol than those who were not treated with liraglutide.

Not only does the study report evidence of the role of GLP-1 in regulation of alcohol-mediated behaviours, but also provides a potential pharmacologic intervention that is currently available. The researchers therefore suggest that liraglutide should be tested for the treatment of alcohol dependence in humans.



Vallöf, D, Maccioni, P, Colombo, G, Mandrapa, M, Jörnulf, JW, Egecioglu, E, Engel, JA, Jerlhag, E. “The glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonist liraglutide attenuates the reinforcing properties of alcohol in rodents” Addiction Biology DOI: 10.1111/adb.12295






Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD

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