Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Gabapentin is safe, effective for treating alcohol dependence, study shows

Date:
November 4, 2013
Source:
The Scripps Research Institute
Summary:
The generic drug gabapentin, which is already widely prescribed for epilepsy and some kinds of pain, appears to be safe and effective in the treatment of alcohol dependence. The finding comes from a 150-patient randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind clinical trial.

The generic drug gabapentin, which is already widely prescribed for epilepsy and some kinds of pain, appears to be safe and effective in the treatment of alcohol dependence. The finding comes from a 150-patient randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind clinical trial conducted by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI).

"Gabapentin's effect on drinking outcomes is at least as large or greater than those of existing FDA-approved treatments," said Barbara J. Mason, Pearson Family Professor and co-director of the Pearson Center for Alcoholism and Addiction Research at TSRI, who led the new research. "Plus it's the only medication shown to improve sleep and mood in people who are quitting or reducing their drinking, and it's already widely used in primary care -- that's an appealing combination."

The new research was published by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine on November 4, 2013.

Reducing Cravings, Depression, Sleeplessness

As a relatively safe, effective and well-tolerated drug, gabapentin has the potential to fill a large gap in the treatment of alcohol dependence. About eight and a half-million Americans are thought to have the condition, yet each year only a tiny fraction of them are prescribed one of the FDA-approved medications for alcohol dependence, due in part to the limitations of the existing drugs used for treatment.

The lack of treatment is striking in light of alcoholism's enormous adverse impact on society. In addition to its other effects on the lives of individuals and their families, alcoholism promotes cancer, liver disease, strokes and heart attacks, as well as various other disabilities. Worldwide, about one out of 25 deaths is attributable to alcohol misuse.

In the new study, Mason and her colleagues randomly assigned each of 150 recently abstinent people with alcohol dependence to be treated with 900 mg or 1,800 mg of gabapentin or with a look-alike placebo. Over 12 weeks of treatment, the high-dose group ended up refraining from heavy drinking twice as often as the placebo group (45% vs. 23%) and entirely abstained four times as often (17% vs. 4%). The drug also significantly reduced the number of drinks consumed, as well as patient reports of cravings, depression and sleeplessness. None of the treated patients reported serious side effects.

Patients who received the lower, 900-mg dose of gabapentin showed intermediate benefits compared to the high-dose group, likely reflecting what clinicians call a "dose-response effect" -- a good indication that the treatment really is working.

"I think that we can now have confidence in the pharmacological effect of this drug," Mason said.

Filling a Gap

Two FDA-approved therapies for alcohol dependence have been around for decades. The first, disulfiram (Antabuse®), interferes with the body's normal enzymatic breakdown of alcohol, making drinking an unpleasant experience. The second, naltrexone (ReVia®, Vivitrol®), blocks the opioid brain-cell receptors that help mediate the sense of reward during drinking.

Both treatments aim to blunt the pleasure-seeking motivation that helps initiate alcohol dependence. But they are relatively ineffective against the anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and other protracted withdrawal symptoms that help maintain alcoholism once it has been established. They are also, by design, somewhat unpleasant -- which often discourages patients from using them.

A newer drug, acamprosate (Campral®), the only other medication approved by FDA for alcoholism treatment, does aim to normalize dysregulation in brain stress systems following acute withdrawal, similar to gabapentin. But it has shown only modest benefits on the whole in clinical trials, with no efficacy noted for mood or sleep.

Gabapentin has a favorable safety profile and appears to work by normalizing levels of the neurotransmitter GABA in an emotion-mediating part of the brain called the amygdala, thereby reducing anxiety and other stress-related withdrawal symptoms. A previous, proof-of-concept study of gabapentin by Mason's group also found effects like those reported in this study in patients with cannabis dependence.

Gabapentin's quieting effect on overactive brain areas has led to its approval by the FDA for treating epilepsy and neuropathic pain. It is also now widely prescribed "off-label" for other pain-related conditions, including migraines.

"I'm excited about the possibility that now more people will get treatment," said Mason. "We really need to do more about treating alcohol dependence."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Scripps Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Barbara J. Mason. Gabapentin Treatment for Alcohol Dependence. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2013; DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.11950

Cite This Page:

The Scripps Research Institute. "Gabapentin is safe, effective for treating alcohol dependence, study shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131104152626.htm>.
The Scripps Research Institute. (2013, November 4). Gabapentin is safe, effective for treating alcohol dependence, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131104152626.htm
The Scripps Research Institute. "Gabapentin is safe, effective for treating alcohol dependence, study shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131104152626.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — Researchers say having a cup of coffee then taking a nap is more effective than a nap or coffee alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) — Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) — A new study suggests babies develop language skills more quickly if their parents imitate the babies' sounds and expressions and talk to them often. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Electrical Stimulation Boosts Brain Function, Study Says

Electrical Stimulation Boosts Brain Function, Study Says

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) — Researchers found an improvement in memory and learning function in subjects who received electric pulses to their brains. 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:
from the past week

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