In what could be a breakthrough in the treatment of alcoholism, researchers say an anti seizure drug dramatically reduced drinking among alcoholics.
Alcoholics who took topiramate were six times as likely as those who took a placebo to abstain from drinking for at least four consecutive weeks during a 12-week study, say researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Topiramate is a drug that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for the treatment of epileptic and other seizures.
The study also found that those who took the placebo were four times as likely as those who took topiramate to drink heavily for 28 consecutive days.
MAY BE MOST EFFECTIVE
The dramatic results suggest that the drug may be more effective than any others currently being used to treat alcoholics, says lead researcher Dr. Bankole A. Johnson.
"The critical factor here is not only were [all of the subjects] heavily dependent on alcohol, but they were all still drinking heavily," saysJohnson, director of the Health Science Center's South Texas Addiction Research and Technology Center.
Researchers defined drinking heavily as more than five drinks per day for men and more than four for women.
Johnson says existing drugs for alcoholism—antabuse, which makes patients sick if they drink, and naltrexone, which blocks the pleasure sensations from alcohol-are designed mainly to prevent a relapse among alcoholics who stop drinking.
Topiramate helps alcoholics quit by blocking the 'high'' from alcohol while reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings, Johnson says.
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