A medication used to aid smoking cessation—varenicline (Chantix)—can also reduce alcohol dependence, according to a study published June 3 in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.
The study was conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Clinical Investigations Group—a multicenter team of researchers.
Two hundred men and women meeting criteria for alcohol dependence were recruited across five clinical sites. The subjects received varenicline or a placebo for 13 weeks.
Data showed that the varenicline group consumed significantly less alcohol and experienced significantly less alcohol craving than did the placebo group. Moreover, the average treatment effect of varenicline on alcohol use was similar for smokers and nonsmokers. Varenicline was also well tolerated. The most common side effects were nausea, abnormal dreams, and constipation, and those effects were generally mild, the researchers noted.
Thus, varenicline is “a potentially viable option for the treatment of alcohol dependence,” the researchers concluded in their paper.
“This is an encouraging development in our effort to expand and improve treatment options for people with alcohol dependence,” Kenneth Warren, Ph.D., acting director of NIAAA, said in an accompanying press statement. “Current medications for alcohol dependence are effective for some, but not all, patients. New medications are needed to provide effective therapy to a broader spectrum of alcohol-dependent individuals.”
“Drinking and smoking often co-occur, and given their genetic and neurochemical similarities, it is perhaps not surprising that a smoking cessation treatment might serve to treat alcohol problems,” Raye Litten, Ph.D., noted in the same statement. Litten, associate director of the NIAAA Division of Treatment and Recovery Research, was the lead investigator in the study.
Varenicline is a partial nicotinic acetylcholine agonist approved by the Food and Drug Administration for smoking cessation in 2006. ■