Julia Chivu ’24
Heart medication may serve a different purpose than its intended use. According to the National Institute of Health and other research partners, spironolactone may treat alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a brain disorder associated with chronic alcohol abuse, often causing increased rates of morbidity, mortality, and poverty. Since there are limited options for AUD treatment, researchers have turned to a widely used heart medication: spironolactone. Such medication has been observed to increase blood volume and pressure when maintaining homeostasis. However, mineralocorticoid receptors found in the brain and in various organs are blocked when taking spironolactone. These receptors are crucial in modulating water and sodium reabsorption into the blood. The researchers suggested that high mineralocorticoid receptor signaling corresponds to high alcohol consumption.
Two studies tested the hypothesis that spironolactone would decrease alcohol consumption. During the first study, researchers injected rats and mice with varying dosages of the medication 30 minutes prior to the administration of alcohol. Both types of rodents exhibited lower alcohol consumption. The study also found that the motor coordination and locomotion of the organisms were not affected by the spironolactone. The consumption of food, water, or non-alcoholic solutions was also not impacted by the presence of spironolactone. In a second study testing the same hypothesis, researchers analyzed the health records of individuals in the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system. The analysis consisted of using a screening tool to measure alcohol consumption after spironolactone was administered for its intended use. This study also discovered that alcohol drinking significantly decreased in patients after utilizing spironolactone.
Not only does this medication treat various heart concerns including edema, hypertension, and heart failure, but it also shows great promise as a new treatment option for those who struggle with AUD. By performing additional research and clinical trials using this medication, AUD patients will likely have access to a medicine already available to the public. In addition, more information relating to how the mineralocorticoid receptors can reduce alcohol consumption may be found over time.
 M. Farokhnia, et al., Spironolactone as a potential new pharmacotherapy for alcohol use disorder: convergent evidence from rodent and human studies. Nature, (2022). doi: 10.1038/s41380-022-01736-y.
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