Alcoholics may now be able to take a pill to help them quit.
Nalmefene, a new drug showcased at the European Psychiatric Association conference, may curb an addict's desire to drink by inhibiting pleasure receptors in the brain. Combined with counseling, the drug was able to cut alcohol consumption by half in 604 test participants over a six month period.
The people volunteering for these trials had real problems with alcohol dependence, most had never sought help before, and others had tried and failed with abstinence strategies - stopping drinking for good. Abstinence is the right option for many people, but not everyone wants to do that, and in those that do try, it helps only about half of them, said Dr. David Collier, a researcher in the study to the Telegraph.
From our experience in these trials, reducing alcohol consumption to safer levels can be a realistic and practical treatment goal for people who are dependent on alcohol, that can bring many short- and longer-term benefits to health. These trial results suggest that the combination of medication and counseling could offer a new option for people in the UK not currently treated for their alcohol dependence.
The drug is being developed by the Lundbeck pharmaceutical company and is currently undergoing clinical trials.
Nalmefene would be the first drug to reduce alcohol consumption without making the addict seriously ill. Side effects include some dizziness, nausea, fatigue, sleep disorder, and vomiting.
A study in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research has concluded that Chantix, a pill that helps people quit smoking, could also potentially help people reduce their alcohol dependence. The study included 15 moderate to heavy drinkers who said alcohol was less enjoyable and unpleasant after taking Chantix. People taking Chantix to quit smoking have also reported drinking less while on the drug.
Chantix has the potential to be used as a treatment for alcoholism because alcohol and smoking exert the same influence through the same receptor in the brain.
However, unlike Nalmefene, Chantix has serious psychiatric side effects, like a desire to commit suicide or self-injure.
A single medication that could decrease the use of both substances would be ideal, said Hugh Myrick, associate professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina and co-author of the drinking study in a statement.
One in 12 adults in the United States is dependent on alcohol, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.