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PJ Online homeThe Pharmaceutical Journal
Vol 273 No 7329 p852
11 December 2004

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· New contract (5)
· Registration exam (4)
· Prescription forms
· Community pharmacy
· Male health
· Competency
· Public health
· Alcohol
· Levithyroxine
· Complementary medicine
· The register (3)
· Retention fee
· The Journal (2)

Letters to the Editor


Alcohol inhibits vasopressin secretion

From Professor B. L. Furman, FRPharmS

In my attempts to maintain my continuing professional development as a pharmacist who does not yet know whether or not he “is practising” (I have duly e-mailed the Royal Pharmaceutical Society helpdesk to determine if I shall be paying £256 in January, or if I shall, instead, be purchasing 10 bottles of my favourite malt whisky), I read with interest Pam Mason’s article (PJ, 4 December, p817 PDF 70K) on hangovers (in anticipation of an unfavourable outcome of my quest to remain on the practising Register and the consequent purchase of the said whisky).

The article states that alcohol acts as a diuretic, because it inhibits the action of vasopressin (antidiuretic hormone) on the kidney. Although very large concentrations of ethanol were shown to inhibit the effects of submaximal concentrations of vasopressin in rat isolated papillary collecting ducts,1 and in toad isolated bladder,2 most of the evidence in the literature suggests that the diuretic effect of ethanol is mediated by an early inhibition of vasopressin secretion, rather than an inhibition of its renal actions. This has been shown in vitro in the rat median eminence using behaviourally relevant ethanol concentrations (5–25 mmol/L)3 and in vivo in the human.4–6

Brian L. Furman
Dean of Science
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow


1. Ray C, Carney SL, Gillies AH. Effect of ethanol on water and chloride transport in the rat papillary collecting duct. Mineral and Electrolyte Metabolism 1992;18:370–4.
2. Meier KE, Mendoza SA. Effect of ethanol on the water permeability and short-circuit current of the urinary bladder of the toad and the response to vasopressin, adenosine-3’,5’-monophosphate and theophylline. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 1976;196: 231–7.
3. Brinton RE, Gruener R, Deshmukh P, Yamamura HI. In vitro inhibition of vasopressin release in brain by behaviourally relevant ethanol concentrations Neuroscience Letters 1986;67:213–7.
4. Helderman JH, Vestal RE, Rowe JW, Tobin JD, Andres R, Robertson GL. The response of arginine vasopressin to intravenous ethanol and hypertonic saline in man: the impact of aging. Journal of Gerontology 1978;33:39–47.
5. Eisenhofer G, Johnson RH. Effect of ethanol ingestion on plasma vasopressin and water balance in humans American Journal of Physiology 1982;242:R522–7.
6. Leppaluoto J, Vuolteenaho O, Arjamaa O, Ruskoaho H. Plasma immunoreactive atrial natriuretic peptide and vasopressin after ethanol intake in man. Acta Physiologica Scandanavica. 1992;144:121–7.

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