Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Certain populations may benefit most from alcohol-dependence treatment naltrexone

June 28, 2011
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research
Naltrexone is one of the most effective pharmacological treatments for alcohol dependence. However, naltrexone does not work for everyone. A new study has found that naltrexone is effective for women, and individuals with the A118G polymorphism of the mu opioid receptor gene.

There are few pharmacological treatments for alcohol dependence (AD). An opioid receptor antagonist called naltrexone is one of the most effective, and yet it is not effective for everyone. This study investigated the influence of gender and the A118G polymorphism of the mu opioid receptor gene (OPRM1) on response to naltrexone, finding that naltrexone decreased alcohol-induced euphoria in women and those with the specific genotype.

Results will be published in the June 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

"Naltrexone is one of the few medications approved for treating alcoholism," said Marco Leyton, William Dawson Chair in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University and corresponding author for the study. "Naltrexone does not work for everyone, though."

"Naltrexone is a very specific drug that only acts on opioid receptors," added Charles P. O'Brien, Kenneth Appel Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. "A significant percentage of alcoholics receive opioid stimulation when they drink alcohol and this produces good feelings such as euphoria. If they take naltrexone, they don't feel so much euphoria. While this doesn't cure their alcoholism, it makes them more responsive to treatment. They don't stop drinking right away, but they drink less. Thus, naltrexone goes well with 12-step programs and behavior therapy. For some people this is life saving; I have personally treated patients up to 20 years with naltrexone, but others only six to 12 months."

The effectiveness of a medication can depend on many different factors, said Leyton. "For naltrexone, there was already some preliminary evidence that gender and genetics were important, including a gene that is related to our body's natural morphine or 'endorphin' system," he noted.

Leyton and his colleagues administered either naltrexone or placebo to 40 social drinkers (20 men, 20 women), 18 to 50 years of age, for six days. On day 1 of the active treatment phase, subjects took 25 mg of naltrexone; if adverse side effects did not occur, subjects took 50 mg per day for the remaining five days. All of the participants but one were genotyped for the A118G polymorphism of the OPRM1 gene. At the end of each treatment period, participants received a single dose of their preferred alcoholic beverage, followed by an opportunity to work for additional alcohol servings.

"The study found that the medication decreased alcohol euphoria most clearly in two groups: women, and people with a gene related to the endorphin system," said Leyton. "These are exciting findings, but not entirely unexpected."

O'Brien agreed. "These results support previous research showing that naltrexone works best in a subgroup of alcoholics who have a certain genotype. We don't know about other subgroups who may respond, but in future we will genotype first and then select medication."

Both Leyton and O'Brien are optimistic that these findings can be used to "personalize" treatment options for AD individuals.

"Researchers and clinicians working together might make it possible to predict beforehand who will best benefit from one treatment versus another," said Leyton. "To help create this envisaged 'personalized medicine' we need to identify more so-called 'biomarkers.'"

"We need to learn how to best identify this subgroup of alcoholics with a certain genotype when they enter treatment," said O'Brien. "If current studies are positive, the FDA may allow a change in the package insert specifying that the medication works best in those with G allele. We also know that it works well in those with a strong family history of alcoholism and those with high alcohol craving."

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Elaine Setiawan, Robert O. Pihl, Sylvia M. L. Cox, Christina Gianoulakis, Roberta M. Palmour, Chawki Benkelfat, Marco Leyton. The Effect of Naltrexone on Alcohol’s Stimulant Properties and Self-Administration Behavior in Social Drinkers: Influence of Gender and Genotype. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2011.01446.x

Cite This Page:

Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. "Certain populations may benefit most from alcohol-dependence treatment naltrexone." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110315163203.htm>.
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. (2011, June 28). Certain populations may benefit most from alcohol-dependence treatment naltrexone. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110315163203.htm
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. "Certain populations may benefit most from alcohol-dependence treatment naltrexone." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110315163203.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This

More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks

Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) A new study says children born less than one year and more than five years after a sibling can have an increased risk for autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robotic Hair Restoration

Robotic Hair Restoration

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A new robotic procedure is changing the way we transplant hair. The ARTAS robot leaves no linear scarring and provides more natural results. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Insertable Cardiac Monitor

Insertable Cardiac Monitor

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A heart monitor the size of a paperclip that can save your life. The “Reveal Linq” allows a doctor to monitor patients with A-Fib on a continuous basis for up to 3 years! Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Attacking Superbugs

Attacking Superbugs

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) Two weapons hospitals can use to attack superbugs. Scientists in Ireland created a new gel resistant to superbugs, and a robot that can disinfect a room in minutes. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins