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New Drug May Reduce Alcohol Abuse


New Drug May Reduce Alcohol Abuse

Scientists have discovered a new drug which has shown to reduce alcohol addiction in some people.  The study involved 144 people who have alcohol use disorder, which means that alcohol causes problems to their work life and relationships.  The participants were consuming about 10 drinks a day at the beginning of the study.  Some of the participants were administered a placebo and others received the drug, ABT-436 for 12 weeks.  This was a double blinded study, which meant that neither the participants or the researchers knew who had consumed the placebo or the ABT-436.

Interestingly, those who had taken the drug had more alcohol free days during the time period than those who had received the placebo.  The placebo group abstained from alcohol for 42 days, whereas the drug group were able to abstain from it for 51 days.  The ABT -436 group also experienced a decline in their “heavy drinking” days, compared to the placebo group.  Although these results are not statistically significant.  They haven’t met the researchers’ criteria for a relevant difference between the groups.

The drug was found to be particularly effective in the participants who suffered from stress. They had 27 heavy drinking days, whereas the placebo group reported having 46.  The drug works by stopping the effects of a chemical in the brain called vasopressin.  This chemical regulates anxiety and addictive behaviours.  Scientists have speculated that vasopressin could increase stress levels when someone is weaning off alcohol, and this can cause the person to crave more alcohol.  Therefore, it wold make sense that those who have higher stress levels benefitted from the drug.

“Our findings suggest that potential future studies with drugs targeting vasopressin blockade should focus on populations of people with [alcohol use disorder] who also report high levels of stress,” said study co-author Megan Ryan, a clinical project manager at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Some of the participants experienced some side effects of the drug, which included nausea and diarrhoea.  Most of the participants said the side effects were mild, although four people stopped taking the drug because of this. There are currently four different medications to treat alcohol use disorder that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but these drugs are not beneficial for all patients. The researchers said “continued research is needed to develop additional medications that are effective and safe for a diverse [alcohol use disorder] population”.  The findings were published in the September 23rd issue of the Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology.

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