Can oxytocin be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder? A team of researchers that has previously studied the potential for the use of the so-called "love hormone" in treating alcohol abuse believes so, and it wants to carry out a clinical trial to test the hypothesis.

In a statement released Thursday, the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), which was involved in studying the effect oxytocin administration has on subjects with alcohol addiction, announced its researchers were beginning a new clinical trial. The trial, which will be held at a mental health facility at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, and will involve 65 volunteers, would try to ascertain if oxytocin ameliorates stress response and alcohol abuse that arises as a result.

"The amount of money spent managing the fallout of PTSD and substance abuse in our whole society is enormous," Jennifer Mitchell, the director of the UCSF Institute for Translational Neuroscience and leader of the clinical trial, said in the statement. "We’re hoping we can address that by bringing an overlooked, cheap, accessible drug into use for the public."

Oxytocin is a hormone produced in the hypothalamus and secreted by the pituitary gland during social bonding, sexual intercourse, and, in women, during childbirth. For this reason, it's often called the "cuddle hormone" or the "love hormone." Previous studies have shown this hormone plays a key role in social behavior, trust, empathy, and in managing stress and anxiety.

"It helps with several conditions because they all involve similar stress responses," Mitchell said. "Our thinking is that oxytocin can also help mitigate the stress response induced by trauma, and therefore keep particular behaviors at bay."

For instance, in a study conducted last year by Mitchell and her colleagues on 32 individuals with alcohol addiction, oxytocin was found to reduce alcohol cravings.

"Intranasal oxytocin has potential to improve social perception, reduce cue-induced alcohol cravings, and reduce appetitive approach bias in subjects with alcohol abuse, and can be safely tolerated in this population. The effects of oxytocin are complex, however, and require further investigation," the researchers concluded in the study.

The clinical trial comes just days after a review of all published evidence suggested that the hormone could be used for the treatment of opioid addiction and preventing addicts from relapsing. The authors of the review also recommended carrying out further clinical trials to ascertain the efficacy of oxytocin-based therapies.

"Given the benefits that social support programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have in keeping addicts abstinent, our findings in the review suggest the use of oxytocin, the pro-social hormone, could be an effective therapy for the prevention of relapse to drug use in drug-dependent individuals," the review's senior author Alex Bailey from the St. George’s University of London said in a recent statement.