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Potential Drug Treatment for Alcoholism

A drug currently approved to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia may play a role in the treatment of alcoholism. The drug is called aripiprazole (Abilify); researchers say more research is needed, but this first study found the drug helps lessen the euphoric effects of alcohol.

Aripiprazole is a dopamine partial agonist, so it works differently in the body than other dopamine drugs. Study authors say the drug has different effects at different dose levels, so it is important to give the right amount of the drug to achieve the right results.

For the study, researchers recruited 18 social drinkers — nine men and nine women. Each participant completed three sessions in which they were given no medication, or 2.5 milligrams or 10 milligrams of aripiprazole. Then they were given three drinks and researchers measured their breath alcohol concentrations, heart rate, blood pressure, body sway and other subjective effects.

“Findings show that aripiprazole made the drinkers sleepier and they experienced less pleasure from alcohol than they might have without it,” says Henry Kranzler, a professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut Health Center. Study authors say this is just preliminary research but one benefit might be that aripiprazole may be more tolerated than other drugs, causing fewer side effects. But researchers say that is still not proven and additional studies need to happen to determine if aripiprazole is a potential treatment for alcoholism.
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source: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 2008;32:573-578

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