The research focuses on the neurobiological and environmental factors that influence alcohol consumption and result in relapses. Analysis of the chemical interactions in the brain provides scientists with a better understanding of the mediating effects of certain systems on relapses that may lead to more effective preventative and treatment measures.
Relapses are a major problem in the treatment of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Scientists have been using experimental animal models to study the effect of stress on relapses and have found that exposure to environmental or pharmacological stressors induce relapses. They have also discovered that certain chemical interactions in the brain help prevent stress-induced relapses. These neuroanatomical and neurochemical interactions in the mediation of a relapse to alcohol are the major emphasis of the research work.
Scientists have also determined that nicotine enhances alcohol consumption and leads to relapses. Co-abuse of alcohol and nicotine is a major problem in the treatment of dependence to alcohol as one drug may promote a relapse to the other. Studies have shown that the prevalence of smoking in individuals who abuse alcohol is about 80 to 90 percent compared to 25 percent in the general population underlying the enormous challenges facing health care professionals.
Scientists are also investigating whether co-abuse of alcohol and nicotine is an inherited trait, which may provide some of the answers required to develop more effective preventative and treatment measures.