WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Sept. 29 (UPI) -- A few alcoholic beverages influence the same neural reactions as rapidly effective antidepressants, a study conducted by Wake Forest medical scientists concluded.
Medical professionals have long linked alcoholism with a perceived need to self-medicate, and Wake Forest researchers say they have found evidence supporting that hypothesis.
The study, published in the latest issue of Nature Communications, tested doses of intoxicating levels of alcohol on an animal model. Researchers observed the alcohol followed the same biochemical pathway as rapid antidepressants such as Ketamine, ultimately transforming an acid called GABA from an inhibitor to a stimulator of neural activity.
Test subjects were shown to exhibit non-depressive behavior lasting at least 24 hours.
Principal investigator Kimberly Raab-Graham, an associate professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, says her team's experiments strongly support the self-medication hypothesis.
"Because of the high comorbidity between major depressive disorder and alcoholism there is the widely recognized self-medication hypothesis, suggesting that depressed individuals may turn to drinking as a means to treat their depression," she said in a press release. "We now have biochemical and behavioral data to support that hypothesis."
Raab-Graham cautioned, however, that relying on the intoxicating substance can still pose a threat.
"There's definitely a danger in self-medicating with alcohol," she added. "There's a very fine line between it being helpful and harmful, and at some point during repeated use self-medication turns into addiction."
Raab Graham called for additional research in the area.