Drug found effective in treating alcoholism
In a new clinical trial, an anticonvulsant drug has been found to be effective in treating alcoholism, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The goal of the study was to determine if the generic form of the anticonvulsant drug, gabapentin, worked in curbing an alcoholic’s desire to drink and reducing alcohol-related insomnia, while also increasing rates of sustained abstinence. The study was conducted at an outpatient clinical research facility from 2004 to 2010, with 150 alcohol-dependent men and women over 18 years old participating.
The results of the double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial were impressive, with gabapentin significantly improving the rates at which those taking it were able to stop drinking and sustain abstinence, compared with those who took a placebo.
Gabapentin was found to be especially effective in an 1800-mg dosage, as such dosage proved helpful for not only alcohol dependence treatment, but also for treating relapse-related symptoms of alcoholism, such as insomnia, dysphoria and craving – all with few side effects and a favorable safety profile.
Researchers for the study concluded that the alcoholics who took gabapentin significantly increased the likelihood that they would stop drinking or otherwise drink less than those who took the placebo instead. Those taking gabapentin were also found to have improved sleep, improved mood and fewer cravings for alcohol, without any major side effects.
The researchers also said that it would be a major benefit if gabapentin were used more in the primary care setting as a drug treatment option for alcoholics.
Currently, there are very few FDA-approved medications for treating alcohol dependence. Yet there are 18 million people in the United States who suffer from alcohol-related disorders, according to the National Institutes of Health, with only three drugs available that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat them.
Study researcher, Barbara Mason, who is with the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, said that this latest clinical trial shows just how effective gabapentin could be for treating alcohol dependence, as the drug showed even more positive results when compared with the three existing treatments approved by the FDA.
She also pointed out that gabapentin is the only drug that has also been proven effective for improving the sleep quality and moods of those taking it as they stop drinking.
SOURCE: JAMA Internal Medicine, http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1764009, Barbara J. Mason, PhD; Susan Quello, BA, BS; et al, published November 4, 2013 (doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.11950).