Alcohol and oxytocin: Scrutinizing the relationship

Andrey E. Ryabinin, Hannah D. Fulenwider

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The initial enthusiasm towards oxytocin (OXT) as a potential treatment for alcohol use disorder has been recently tempered by recognizing existing gaps in literature and the recent appearance of a relatively small number of clinical studies with negative outcomes. On the other hand, several new studies continue to support the OXT system's potential for such treatment. In this review, we thoroughly analyze existing literature assessing both alcohol's effects on the OXT system and OXT's effects on alcohol-related behaviors. Both rodent and clinical research is discussed. We identify areas that have been studied extensively and those that have been undeservingly understudied. OXT's potential effects on tolerance, withdrawal, craving, anxiety and social behaviors, and how these processes ultimately affect alcohol consumption, are critically explored. We conclude that while OXT can affect alcohol consumption in males and females, more comprehensive studies on OXT's effects on alcohol-related tolerance, withdrawal, craving, anxiety and social affiliations in subjects of both sexes and across several levels of analyses are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)852-864
Number of pages13
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Alcoholism
  • Ethanol
  • Oxytocin
  • Pharmacotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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