Sunday, September 6, 2009

Chantix may be effective for Alcoholism

Chantix (Varenicline) is the new drug for Nicotine dependence. It is a pretty amazing drug. It was designed in the lab to specifically attach to the Nicotine receptors and block them. The idea is that patients would be unable to get any benefit from smoking and hopefully they would lose their cravings. Indeed this is what happens. I have seen people quit smoking when they really weren’t particularly motivated to quit. The Chantix took away their cravings so much that the patients figured they might as well quit.

Soon after Chantix began to be prescribed, some case reports started coming in that some alcoholics, who were using Chantix to quit smoking, were losing their cravings for alcohol. It doesn’t quite make sense, since we don’t think alcohol works through the nicotine receptors. But the brain is complex and inter-related system.

So, Dr McKee at Yale University studied some heavy drinkers half of whom who had been put on Chantix, and the other half on placebo. They were all given one drink and then given unrestricted access to alcohol. The group on the placebo drank quite a lot more than the group on the Chantix and they had much higher cravings for alcohol.

This is very preliminary data but very interesting that there could be another medication we can use to reduce cravings and help alcoholics stay in recovery. It will be interesting to see what further research shows.

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