Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Smoking cessation meds shows promise as alcoholism treatment, study suggests

Date:
February 15, 2012
Source:
University of Chicago Medical Center
Summary:
A medication commonly used to help people stop smoking may have an unanticipated positive side effect for an entirely different vice: drinking alcohol. A new study finds that varenicline, sold as Chantix, increases the negative effects of alcohol and therefore could hold promise as a treatment for alcoholism.

A medication commonly used to help people stop smoking may have an unanticipated positive side effect for an entirely different vice: drinking alcohol. A new study by University of Chicago researchers finds that varenicline, sold as Chantix, increases the negative effects of alcohol and therefore could hold promise as a treatment for alcoholism.

Related Articles


A group of heavy-to-moderate social drinkers given a single dose varenicline three hours before an alcoholic beverage reported increased dysphoria and reduced "liking," even when researchers controlled for the effects of nausea from the drug. Those effects upon the subjective response to alcohol could reduce drinking in people prone to bingeing and other forms of abuse.

"We found that varenicline increased the unpleasant effects of alcohol and decreased drug liking," said Emma Childs, PhD, research associate at the University of Chicago Medicine and first author of the study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. "Thus, we think that varenicline may reduce drinking by altering the effects of alcohol."

Some patients prescribed Chantix to quit smoking have anecdotally reported a reduction in consumption of alcohol as well, and controlled studies in animals and humans have supported the effect. Researchers are now looking for neurobiological mechanisms that connect varenicline, a partial agonist of the brain's nicotinic receptors, with reduced alcohol craving or consumption.

"Smokers who use varenicline are approximately two to three times more likely to remain abstinent six months or more after their quit date," said Childs. "After it was approved, several patients treated with varenicline also reported reductions in their drinking, so investigators began to assess if this was an actual effect and how it might be produced."

The new experiment is the first to look at the acute effects of a single dose of varenicline on the subjective response to a subsequent alcoholic drink. Subjects were recruited based on heavy drinking behavior, not smoking behavior -- though the recruits did smoke 4 cigarettes a day on average.

15 subjects (8 men and 7 women) were brought to the laboratory for six different sessions. On each day, the subject received either a varenicline or placebo capsule, and then three hours later was given a drink containing 0, 0.4, or 0.8 mg/kg alcohol. Researchers monitored the effects of the drink on cardiovascular and eye movement measures, and subjects filled out questionnaires to report the subjective effects of the drink.

Compared to sessions where the subjects received a placebo pill, varenicline increased nausea, heart rate, blood pressure. After an alcoholic drink, self-reported dysphoria was increased while alcohol effects on subconscious eye movements (a measure of the drugs' objective effects) were reduced. Even after controlling for the effect of nausea upon the subsequent response to a drink, the increased dysphoria and reduced "drug liking" after drinking alcohol remained significant.

By increasing the negative effects of alcohol, varenicline might be most effective in people who are unable to stop consuming alcohol after only one drink, Childs said.

"Our findings shed light on the mechanism underlying why people consume less alcohol when they have taken varenicline," said Childs. "The pleasurable effects of alcohol, for example feeling 'buzzed' and talkative, are associated with greater consumption and binge drinking. Some people lose control of their alcohol consumption during a drinking episode, for example they may aim to only have one or two drinks but end up drinking say four or five. If varenicline counteracts these positive effects by producing unpleasant effects, then as a result people may consume less alcohol during a drinking episode."

The authors cautioned that their study only examined the acute effect of a single dose of varenicline, rather than the sustained exposure experienced with regular use of the drug. But because the effectiveness of varenicline has already been proven as a smoking cessation drug, the unanticipated effects on drinking may make people struggling with both behaviors a logical first target.

"Varenicline may find a nice niche in those individuals who are both nicotine and alcohol dependent, who we know represent a large portion of alcohol-dependent individuals," added Hugh Myrick, associate professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina, who was not involved in the study. "Since there is a high comorbidity between nicotine and alcohol dependence, a single medication that could decrease the use of both substances would be ideal."

Funding for the research was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Emma Childs, Daniel J. O. Roche, Andrea C. King, and Harriet de Wit. Varenicline potentiates alcohol-induced negative subjective responses and offsets impaired eye movements. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2012

Cite This Page:

University of Chicago Medical Center. "Smoking cessation meds shows promise as alcoholism treatment, study suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120215190138.htm>.
University of Chicago Medical Center. (2012, February 15). Smoking cessation meds shows promise as alcoholism treatment, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120215190138.htm
University of Chicago Medical Center. "Smoking cessation meds shows promise as alcoholism treatment, study suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120215190138.htm (accessed October 26, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
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.

Save/Print:
Share:

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



Save/Print:
Share:

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