Anti-epileptic drug could help curb alcohol addiction

Washington, Feb. 16: A team of researchers has found that the anticonvulsant medication, topiramate, can also be helpful in treating problem drinkers whose aim is to curb their alcohol consumption.

Topiramate, previously shown to reduce drinking in patients committed to abstinence from alcohol, is helpful particularly among a specific group of patients whose genetic makeup appears to be linked to the efficacy of the therapy.

“This study represents an important next step in understanding and treating problem drinking,” lead author on the study, Henry R. Kranzler, MD, professor of Psychiatry, director of Penn’s Center for Studies of Addiction, said. “Our study is the first we are aware of in which topiramate was evaluated as a treatment option for patients who want to limit their drinking to safe levels, rather than stop drinking altogether.”

The randomized double-blind trial included a total of 138 heavy drinkers, approximately half of whom received 12 weeks of treatment with topiramate at a maximal dosage of 200 mg per day and half of whom received a placebo.

Both groups underwent brief counseling to reduce drinking and increase abstinent days. The study was initiated at the University of Connecticut Health Center and completed at the Center for Studies of Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania.

Patients were seen weekly during the first six weeks of treatment, followed by three biweekly visits in which their breath alcohol concentration, weight and vital signs were measured and concurrent medications, the occurrence of adverse events and protocol adherence monitored. Patients were also interviewed at each visit on their drinking and medication use since the last visit.

The results showed that the patients who received topiramate had fewer heavy drinking days than those in the placebo group.

By the end of treatment, the odds of experiencing a heavy drinking day in the placebo group was five times more than that of the topiramate group; and the number of patients who experienced no heavy drinking days on the last four weeks of treatment in the topirmate group was more than double that of the placebo group.

In addition, topiramate patients reported more abstinent days than placebo patients.

The study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. (ANI)