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Alcoholism & Addiction

Heart Beat Affects Alcohol Cravings, Study Finds

The Drug and Alcohol Dependence publication recently included a report that says there is a link between the autonomic nervous system and the compulsion for alcoholics to drink.

Researchers have begun to look at cardiac measurements in determining which alcoholics in treatment are likely to experience the strongest urges to go back to drinking. They achieved this by measuring heart beat changes, also referred to as heart rate variability, in a pool of dependent outpatients.

Researchers found that patients who had less variability, or a steadier heart rate, were less likely to have trouble staying away from alcohol for longer periods of time than did those patients with high variability rates.

The researchers said in their report that there is a connection between impulse control and cardiac regulation, which means cravings in certain individuals can be measured by looking at the heart rate variability. Armed with this information, health care professionals have a new tool in battling addiction.

Controlling oxytocin is one way to keep the heart rate variability more stable. Researchers are now using oxytocin to try to produce results in reducing the craving for alcohol in their patients. Another means to controlling these cravings is by using meditation principles, including breathing exercises and biofeedback to bring about a more steady heart rate.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of American adults are regular drinkers. Around 25,000 deaths each year are a product of accidents and homicides where alcohol was involved. Nearly 16,000 people die each year due to liver diseases brought on by alcohol use.

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