The results, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, present a new model for identifying biomarkers that may indicate that a person with PTSD is more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder.
“PTSD significantly increases the risk of alcohol use disorder as individuals use alcohol to manage stress and anxiety,” said study author Dean Kirson of the Scripps Research Institute in the United States.
However, the underlying biology of comorbid diseases is generally not well understood.
“We hope that our new knowledge of gender-specific changes in the brain will help drive the development of more targeted treatments,” added Kirson.
Alcohol abuse disorder is also common, affecting approximately 15 million people in the US.
People with stress and anxiety disorders like PTSD not only abuse alcohol more often, but also have increased alcohol withdrawal symptoms and a higher risk of relapse.
For the study, the research team looked at behavior, sleep patterns, inflammatory immune responses, and levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA (short for gamma-aminobutyric acid), which lowers anxiety and increases feelings of relaxation and is a common characteristic of alcohol addiction.
In both male and female rats, traumatic stress and alcohol exacerbated other behaviors common in PTSD, such as: B. shock reactions in social avoidance and defensive behavior.
Those identified as “at risk of drinking” prior to the trauma were most likely to show avoidance of traumatic locations.
However, the scientists found significant differences in the behavior of men and women after trauma and saw significantly different patterns of GABA signal transmission.
For example, men showed increased GABA receptor function while women showed increased GABA release.
The team also found that men showed an immune-based biomarker – a small protein known as cytokines that are secreted by immune cells – that determined susceptibility to an alcohol use disorder. The women didn’t.
“We have identified profiles of specific cytokines, many of which have not been previously associated with stressful behavior and which are strongly related to poor drinking results,” the authors wrote
“These can be clinically or even mechanistically important, but they were only found in men. So we still have to find similar biomarkers for women, ”they stated.
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