Spironolactone as a potential new pharmacotherapy for alcohol use disorder: convergent evidence from rodent and human studies

Evidence suggests that spironolactone, a nonselective mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) antagonist, modulates alcohol seeking and consumption. Therefore, spironolactone may represent a novel pharmacotherapy for alcohol use disorder (AUD). In this study, we tested the effects of spironolactone in a mouse model of alcohol drinking (drinking-in-the-dark) and in a rat model of alcohol dependence (vapor exposure). We also investigated the association between spironolactone receipt for at least 60 continuous days and change in self-reported alcohol consumption, using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-Consumption (AUDIT-C), in a pharmacoepidemiologic cohort study in the largest integrated healthcare system in the US. Spironolactone dose-dependently reduced the intake of sweetened or unsweetened alcohol solutions in male and female mice. No effects of spironolactone were observed on drinking of a sweet solution without alcohol, food or water intake, motor coordination, alcohol-induced ataxia, or blood alcohol levels. Spironolactone dose-dependently reduced operant alcohol self-administration in dependent and nondependent male and female rats.

In humans, a greater reduction in alcohol consumption was observed among those who received spironolactone, compared to propensity score-matched individuals who did not receive spironolactone. The largest effects were among those who reported hazardous/heavy episodic alcohol consumption at baseline (AUDIT-C ≥ 8) and those exposed to ≥ 50 mg/day of spironolactone. These convergent findings across rodent and human studies demonstrate that spironolactone reduces alcohol use and support the hypothesis that this medication may be further studied as a novel pharmacotherapy for AUD.