A new study revealed that alcohol consumption may produce the similar biochemical changes as rapid antidepressant drugs, which may result to a non-depressive behavior lasting for about 24 hours.
The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, found that a single dose of intoxicating alcohol could stimulate neural and molecular activity in the brain to temporarily alleviate depressive symptoms. These findings may help explain why people who are suffering from depression turn to alcohol as a mean to treat themselves.
However, the researchers of the study noted that their finding does not at all suggest that alcohol consumption can be regarded as an effective treatment for depression.
"There's definitely a danger in self-medicating with alcohol," explained Kimberly Raab-Graham, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, part of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and lead author of the study, in a press release. "There's a very fine line between it being helpful and harmful, and at some point during repeated use self-medication turns into addiction."
For the study, the researchers used animal models to analyze the antidepressant effects of alcohol. The researchers discovered that a single dose of alcohol could block protein known as NMDA receptors, which is associated with learning and memory. This level of alcohol intoxication could work in conjunction with autism-related protein FMRP to transform an acid called GABA from an inhibitor to a stimulator of neural activity. As a result of this biochemical changes, a person suffering from depression could experience non-depressive behavior for about 24 hours.
Furthermore, the researchers found that alcohol followed the same biochemical pathway as rapid antidepressants in the animals. Thus, alcohol consumption in their animal models could produce behavioral effects comparable to those observed in humans.
The researchers noted that their findings provide biological basis for natural instinct of humans to self-medicate. However, more research is needed to confirm if controlled alcohol consumption could be used as treatment for depression.
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