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Acta Pol Pharm. 2016 Jan-Feb;73(1):3-12.



The consequences of alcohol dependence concern serious health care, social and economic problems. The scope of many studies is to better understand mechanisms underlying alcohol addiction in order to work out new, more effective treatment strategies. Alcohol affects many neurotransmission systems within the brain. In general, acute alcohol enhances inhibitory transmission, up-regulating the GABAergic system and impairing glutamatergic function, therefore interfering the balance between excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs. Chronic alcohol consumption, meanwhile, in order to restore equilibrium leads to neuroadaptive changes caus- ing both decreased GABAergic and increased glutamatergic activity. Also function of other neurotransmitters and modulators is modified by the presence of alcohol, including glycine, adenosine, serotonin and dopamine. Moreover, a significant impact of alcohol on the endogenous opioid system, nicotinic cholinergic transmission and the endocannabinoids system has been also established. At present, only four medications are approved for the treatment of alcohol dependence in Europe, that is naltrexone, acamprosate, disulfiram and the most recent nalmefene. Among other promising strategies the following drugs are mentioned: baclofen, topiramate, ondansetron, aripiprazole, rimonabant and varenicline. Additionally, the role of appetite-regulating hormones, neuroimmune modulators or the body's stress-response system modulators in reducing alcohol consumption is currently of great interest, however, further investigations are needed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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