Oxytocin, also known as the love or cuddle hormone, has a status in popular culture because of its role in social and sexual behaviour and long-term bonding with partners.
Now researchers from the University of Sydney and the University of Regensburg have discovered it also has a remarkable influence on the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
Oxytocin infused into the brains of rats prevented the drunken lack of coordination caused by alcohol.
Watch the rats at work here:
“In the rat equivalent of a sobriety test, the rats given alcohol and oxytocin passed with flying colours, while those given alcohol without oxytocin were seriously impaired,” Dr Bowen said.
This sobering-up effect of oxytocin has yet to be shown in humans but the researchers plan to conduct these studies in the near future.
“The first step will be to ensure we have a method of drug delivery for humans that allows sufficient amounts of oxytocin to reach the brain. If we can do that, we suspect that oxytocin could also leave speech and cognition much less impaired after relatively high levels of alcohol consumption,” Dr Bowen said.
But oxytocin can’t save you from being arrested while driving home from the pub.
“While oxytocin might reduce your level of intoxication, it won’t actually change your blood alcohol level,” Dr Bowen said. “This is because the oxytocin is preventing the alcohol from accessing the sites in the brain that make you intoxicated, it is not causing the alcohol to leave your system any faster.”
The findings, reported in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could see the development of new oxytocin-based treatments for alcohol-use disorders.
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