A new study reported by the Research Society on Alcoholism concludes that alternative pain therapies including acupuncture and electroacupuncture (EA) may be effective in reducing the incidence of hyperalgesia that may accompany alcohol withdrawal. The onset of hyperalgesia, or increased sensitivity to pain, may induce a relapse in drinking. The study on rodents investigated both the potential for electroacupuncture to alleviate hyperalgesia during alcohol withdrawal, and additionally, if the mechanism of action involves the mu opioid receptors (MORs) located in the lateral habenula region of the brain. The findings are published this month in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
In the study, rats who were trained to drink alcohol were then discontinued from drinking, leading to withdrawal symptoms including hyperalgesia. They then measured pain sensitivity using heat administered to the hind paw both with and without application of EA. The group receiving EA demonstrated reduced levels of hyperalgesia as measured by paw withdrawal latencies (PWLs) compared to the cohort who did not receive EA. Additionally, the effect of EA on PWLs was significantly attenuated by bilateral intrahabenula infusion of the MOR antagonist naltrexone, supporting the conclusion that the effect involves MORs in the habenula. “Based on this,” the study abstract concludes, “EA could be of potential value as a therapy for hyperalgesia in alcohol dependence.”
A news story about the findings may be read here.
The journal abstract may be read here.
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