Finasteride is a synthetic drug for the treatment of male pattern hair loss (MPHL) and an enlarged prostate.
The side effects of finasteride for treatment of these two conditions can include increased rates of sexual dysfunction, such as low libido and erectile dysfunction; in fact, some men who have discontinued the medication continue to experience persistent sexual side effects.
Building on the discovery that finasteride has also been shown to reduce alcohol intake and suppress alcohol preference in mice, a new study has found that a majority of men with finasteride-related sexual side effects noticed a decrease in their alcohol consumption.
Results will be published in the November 2013 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.
"Finasteride is a synthetic medication used to treat enlarged prostates in older men," explained Michael S. Irwig, assistant professor of medicine at The George Washington University and sole author of the study. "It is also used by younger men for male pattern baldness.
In younger men with male pattern baldness, [less than] five percent have developed sexual side effects. Finasteride has not been used for alcohol reduction in humans; our study is among the first to look at its effects on drinking in humans."
"Finasteride is a 5α-reductase inhibitor that blocks the production of a variety of cholesterol-derived hormones and modulators, including certain androgens and other steroids that are active in both the body and brain," explained Chuck Zorumski, the Samuel B. Guze Professor and head of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine. "Neuroactive steroids like allopregnanolone help to regulate brain networks involved in emotion, motivation, and cognition.
There is considerable interest in whether these neurosteroids contribute to psychiatric illnesses. Alcohol is known to augment the production of neurosteroids like allopregnanolone in animals, and these steroids are thought to contribute to the sedating, intoxicating, and adverse effects of alcohol, including acute memory impairment.
The present study is important because it is the first study in humans to link clinical finasteride use to changes in alcohol consumption."