'Love hormone' can help people beat alcohol addiction: study

A whiff of "love hormone" oxytocin may help people beat alcoholism, a new study has claimed.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina gave 11 alcohol-dependent volunteers two daily doses of an oxytocin nasal spray or a placebo, during the first three days of a detox programme, New Scientist reported.

The volunteers also received lorazepam - a detox drug - when their withdrawal symptoms reached a specific level.

"The oxytocin group had fewer alcohol cravings and milder withdrawal symptoms than the placebo group, and used just one-fifth of the lorazepam, four oxytocin volunteers didn't need any lorazepam at all," researcher Cort Pedersen said.

Lorazepam reduces anxiety and seizures during alcohol withdrawal, but it is highly addictive and users can experience insomnia and cravings when they come off the drug.

Although it is unclear how oxytocin - known for its role in social bonding - helps to aid withdrawal, it has no known side effects.

Pedersen hopes that alcoholics who take the hormone will therefore be less likely to experience the unpleasant symptoms that can lead to relapse.

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