American scientists have found that a single alcohol intake causes the same changes in the body that occur when taking antidepressants. The research is published in the journal Nature Communications .
Rapid-acting antidepressants such as ketamine block NMDA receptors that bind glutamate (an excitatory neurotransmitter) and are involved in memory and learning. Alcohol is known to relieve symptoms of depression, which is why some people use alcohol to improve their mood. It was also found that the risk of becoming dependent on alcohol in people with depression is twice higher, and, conversely, alcohol abuse increases the risk of depression.
Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin decided to find out what is common in the mechanism of action of antidepressants and alcohol. In their experiment, scientists injected male mice with ethyl alcohol, and half an hour after that they took samples of neurons in the hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for memory. Analysis of these neurons showed that alcohol, like fast-acting antidepressants, blocks NMDA receptors and reduces the synthesis of the FMRP protein, which is responsible for the release of γ-aminobutyric acid, the main inhibitory neurotransmitter of the nervous system. In mice that were deprived of FMRP, the anti-anxiety effects of alcohol and antidepressants were not extended. Scientists suggest that this mechanism plays a key role in the development of alcohol dependence in depressive disorders.