Binge drinkers volunteer to hang out in fully stocked bar – minus the booze

A group of scientists has embarked on a unique experiment to prevent binge drinking — in a bar, of all places.

But it’s not your typical bar.

National Institutes of Health researchers created a lab that looks like a bar, stocking the gathering place inside the NIH hospital near Bethesda, Md., with bottles of mock liquor and beer taps, testing volunteers’ reactions to determine if a new pill has the potential to prevent heavy drinking.

“The goal is to create almost a real-world environment, but to control it very strictly,” lead researcher Dr. Lorenzo Leggio told the New York Post.

The NIH estimates that 17 million Americans drink too much.

“Alcoholics come in many forms,” Dr. George Koob, who specializes in the neurobiology of alcohol, told the Post.

At the center of the NIH research is ghrelin, the hormone in the stomach that controls appetite via receptors in the brain, according to the Post.

Evidence suggests an overlap in receptors that produce cravings for food and alcohol, Leggio said.

The NIH published a study last fall after testing 45 heavy drinkers with the hormone, finding that once the ghrelin increased, so did cravings for alcohol.

NIH researchers are now trying to determine whether an experimental Pfizer drug designed for diabetes can the reverse effect, according to the Post.


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