Wake Forest Baptist receives $8 million grant for innovative alcohol addiction research center

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has taken another important step against the rapidly growing issue of alcohol addiction. In its latest endeavor, the organization has awarded approximately $8 million for five years to the nationally recognized American medical center Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The grant has been issued to establish a new research center for alcohol addiction to be named as the Wake Forest Translational Alcohol Research Center (WF-TARC).

According to recent statistics shared by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), there has been a steep rise in both heavy, binge and underage drinking patterns. One can comprehend the growing menace of alcohol abuse from the fact that around 90,000 people succumbed to alcohol-related problems compared to nearly 59,000 fatalities due to opioid overdose in 2016. In the light of the above data, the grant to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center will play a key role in reducing alcohol-related problems.

The new center is being built along the lines of translational alcohol research program established at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center with support from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The WF-TARC plans to use the data available from the preclinical animal models and clinical research to analyze the behavioral and neurobiological factors that affect an individual’s vulnerability and resilience to alcohol use disorder (AUD).

The exclusivity of the center lies in its core focus on understanding the reasons behind increased susceptibility to alcohol addiction in some people compared to others. Adding to this, Jeff Weiner, professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest Baptist and the center’s director, said, “We hope to identify the ‘neural fingerprint’ or brain biomarker for addiction, which could help scientists develop better medications and interventions. Right now, most of the medications available for the treatment of addiction don’t work very well, and relapse rates are about 80 percent in the first year.”

Researchers bank on brain imaging data to understand susceptibility to alcohol addiction

The WF-TARC will primarily focus on people indulging in heavy drinking and are on the verge of developing addiction. In order to comprehend the difference between vulnerable and resilient people, researchers will examine the sophisticated brain imaging data provided by the functional magnetic resonance imaging or functional MRI (fMRI) to identify all possible neural signatures. Moreover, they will employ other behavioral measures like craving to understand the risk of a relapse in users.

Substantiating his stance on using craving as symptom predictor of alcohol-related problems, Weiner said, “In earlier research we found that heavy drinkers who have high levels of craving have different patterns of connectivity in different parts of the brain than those who don’t. We’ll be building on those findings to try to identify specific brain changes that differentiate high- and low-craving heavy drinkers.” To assess the data better, researchers are also planning to assimilate brain imaging with other experiential therapies like mindfulness.

Achieve sobriety by integrating treatment with alternative therapies

Alcohol addiction has emerged as a menace across all age groups, especially youngsters. Despite the reports on the increased number of fatalities due to alcohol, more cases of alcohol addiction are coming up every day. Therefore, it is extremely essential that the right steps are taken to keep this danger in check to curb the number of people affected by this problem of alcohol addiction.

Treatment options like counseling sessions, psychotherapy and medications are known to be some of the effective ways to help an individual recover. Along with these, making an individual join an inpatient or outpatient treatment program can act as an effective remedial measure.

If you or someone you know is addicted to alcohol and is planning to seek help, contact the Texas Alcohol Addiction Helpline to connect to one of the best alcohol addiction treatment centers in the U.S. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-281-3014 or chat online with our experts to get in touch with the state-of-the-art alcohol addiction treatment centers near your location.