A spritz of the "love hormone" oxytocin up the nose may help alcoholics beat their drinking problem, according to a new study.
The study conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill involved 11 alcohol-dependent participants.
Researchers asked participants to take two daily doses of an oxytocin nasal spray or a placebo, during the first three days of a detox program. The researchers, led by Cort Pedersen, also gave participants lorazepam to relive withdrawal symptoms after they reached a certain level, New Scientist reported.
Researchers found that participants in the oxytocin group had fewer alcohol craving and milder withdrawal symptoms than participants in the placebo group.
Pedersen told the magazine that four of the volunteers in the oxytocin group didn't even need lorazepam. He said that while lorazepam reduced anxiety and seizures during alcohol withdrawal, it is highly addictive. Experts say that users can experience insomnia and cravings when they stop taking the drug.
Researchers are unsure about how the "love hormone" or "love drug" aids alcohol withdrawal. The hormone, known for its role in boosting social bonding, is naturally made in the hypothalamus region of the brain and is involved in sex, sexual attraction, trust and confidence.
Researchers hope that alcoholics who take the hormone will one day be less likely to experience the unpleasant symptoms that often lead to relapse.