New hope in alcoholism treatment, say Scripps researchers

Study results released Monday

SAN DIEGO - Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute declared new hope in the treatment of alcoholism on Monday, following the results of a new study to treat the disease with a drug that is already on the market.

Gabapentin already is prescribed for people with epilepsy and for patients with some pain, including migraines.

This new study found the drug appears to be safe and effective in the treatment of alcohol dependence, researchers said.

"Gabapentin's effect on drinking outcomes is at least as large or greater than those of existing FDA-approved treatments," said Barbara J. Mason in a news release from the Scripps Research Institute. Mason is the co-director of the Pearson Center for Alcoholism and Addiction Research, 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," Mason said in the release.

There is no cure for alcoholism, but symptoms can be treated with some other prescription drugs, including naltrexone, which the National Institutes of Health describes as a prescription to prevent relapse. Alcoholism can also be treated with 12-step programs and psychotherapy.

TRSI researchers said Gabapentin helped with cravings, depression and sleeplessness often experienced by alcoholics, which other drugs don't do as effectively.

In three months of treatment, TRSI researchers also said the high-dose group refrained from heavy drinking twice as often as the placebo group, and entirely abstained four times as often as the placebo group. They reported the drug also reduced the number of drinks consumed, and said none of the patients reported serious side effects.

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

More than eight million Americans are thought to suffer from alcoholism. The NIH estimates more than 700,000 of them seek treatment every day.

The new study was described as a "150-patient randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind clinical trial" in the news release.

To read more about the study from researchers, go here. (Mobile users:

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