January 3, 2019 Felicia Durling

Neuroscience and Alcoholism: Can we Prevent Alcoholism?

As the world is faced with a global epidemic of alcoholism and drug addiction, scientists have rushed to their laboratories to find solutions. Neuroscience has given tremendous amounts of knowledge to the treatment of addiction and alcoholism. Increasing amounts of insight have been revealed into how the brain becomes addicted. Studies on the brain have demonstrated where addiction lives, how addiction functions, and what happens when people recover.

Every so often, news spreads of a monumental discovery in neuroscience with great promise for preventing or curing alcoholism. Neuroscientists target specific neurons or areas of the brain to see how it reacts to alcohol or lack of alcohol. Neurons and nerve cells are a major part of the addiction process. Namely, the neurotransmitter dopamine, responsible for pleasure. As scientific research on alcoholism in the brain progresses, studies reveal that more chemicals than just dopamine are activated.

Neuroscience and Alcoholism

Most recently, researchers at Texas A&M University discovered that by activating a specific set of nerve cells, the brain could be influenced. Specifically, these neurons “tell drinkers when to stop” and can “potentially avoid alcoholism”. One aspect of alcoholism that many describe as the “insanity” of the disease is the inability to stop drinking. After taking one drink, something seems to be triggered in the alcoholic’s brain. They’re encouraged to consume as much as possible. Without regard to consequence, the alcoholic keeps drinking. Waking up from their belligerence, they are bewildered once more by how it happened again. The dopamine answer to addiction highlights the addiction to pleasure in the brain. Unfortunately, it lacks in specificity.

Dopamine neurons come in two type of receptors, D1 and D2. The researchers found that the D1 neurons indicated a green light for input while D2 neurons indicated a red light for input. Activating these neurons influenced the ability to say no or stop. Testing on lab animals, the researchers discovered that activating clusters of the D2 neurons did in fact inhibit alcohol consumption.

For a drinking problem that has difficulty stopping alcohol consumption, this finding offers hope for inhibiting drinking. The research also revealed that drinking too much deactivates the D2, hence the unstoppable desire for alcohol.


Science gives us the hope of accessible treatment methods for alcoholism. The Center for Life Change encourages the exploration of treatment while sticking to what is evidence-based and proven. Call us today for more information on our intensive outpatient programs for addiction and alcoholism treatment. (951) 775-4000.

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