New research by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute has underlined the power of an endogenous anti-stress peptide in the brain to prevent and even reverse some of the cellular effects of acute alcohol and alcohol dependence in animal models. The work could lead to the development of novel drugs to treat alcoholism. The new study, led by Scripps Research Associate Prof. Marisa Roberto and now published online ahead of print by the journal Biological Psychiatry, illuminates the cellular mechanisms that govern the transition from alcohol use to alcohol dependence. Specifically, the study examined the interaction between two competing agents—one a stress peptide that promotes excessive alcohol drinking, the other an anti-stress peptide that opposes it. The results confirm that drugs derived from the anti-stress peptide nociceptin could play an important role in treating a complex and multifaceted disease.