Australian researchers have identified an anti-anxiety drug that could potentially reverse the damage caused to the brain by alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse and addiction are characterised by extended periods of heavy alcohol use, binges and abstinence, and anxiety and depression which contribute to relapse. The findings showed that tandospirone can help our brains reboot and reverse the damage on the regeneration of brain cells, caused by heavy alcohol consumption.
“Tandospirone drug is available only in China and Japan. It is commonly used there and shown to be highly effective in treating general anxiety and well tolerated with limited adverse effects,” said Arnauld Belmer, a postdoctoral research student at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia. In the study, published in Scientific Reports, adult mice who underwent two weeks of daily treatment with the drug tandospirone saw a reduction in anxiety-like behaviours associated with alcohol withdrawal.
Tandospirone reversed the effects of 15 weeks of binge-like alcohol consumption on neurogenesis — the ability of the brain to grow and replace neurons (brain cells). This was also accompanied by a significant decrease in binge-like alcohol intake. “This is a novel discovery that tandospirone can reverse the deficit in neurogenesis caused by alcohol,” said lead author Selena Bartlett, Professor at QUT.
The study also opens the way to look at if neurogenesis is associated with other substance-abuse deficits, such as in memory and learning, and whether this compound can reverse these. “Tandospirone is not just another drug that shows promise in helping to reduce binge drinking,” Bartlett said. “While it could possibly have that effect, it might be able to help reboot the brain and reverse the deficits the alcohol abuse causes – both the inhibition to the brain’s ability to regenerate, and the behavioural consequences that come from what alcohol is doing to the brain, like increases in anxiety and depression,” she noted.