Asthma Drug Reduces Alcohol Cravings, Study Shows

FEBRUARY 02, 2017
Jennifer Barrett, Assistant Editor

Have scientists found a new drug that could curb alcohol cravings and treat addiction? Alcoholism is particularly difficult to overcome due to subsequent cravings that often cause individuals to relapse. New research has uncovered a promising drug candidate that has the ability to quell cravings by diminishing the pleasurable effects of drinking.
 
The new study, published in Neuropsychopharmacology, examined the anti-inflammatory drug, called ibudilast, which is known for its use to treat asthma in Japan.
 
UCLA researchers evaluated 17 men and women who had reported drinking alcohol an average of 21 days per month, and drinking 7 alcoholic beverages per day when they drank.
 
When taking ibudilast, study participants’ reactions to alcoholic beverages were measured after they were asked to hold and smell a glass of their preferred alcoholic drink. The researchers found that the subjects’ craving for alcohol decreased significantly when taking the medication. In addition, the drug seems to improve the users’ mood, alleviating the depression that is commonly associated with alcohol addiction.
 
The researchers also tested how alcohol interacts with the medication by giving participants an intravenous dose of alcohol equivalent to 4 drinks on the 6th day. They noted that the drug can be safely administrated when individuals are drinking alcohol.
 
Earlier research has demonstrated ibudilast’s effectiveness in reducing rats’ alcohol consumption. Other drugs that have been tested to treat alcohol addiction have demonstrated similar efficacy in rats, but caused too many adverse effects in humans.
 
“We found that ibudilast is safe and well-tolerated,” Lara Ray, a UCLA professor of psychology, director of the UCLA Addictions Laboratory and lead author, said in a news release. “This medication can be safely administered, including when people are drinking alcohol.”
 
A handful of FDA-approved drugs – antabuse, naltrexone, and topamax – are available to treat alcoholism. Even so, experts also recommend additional non-medication therapies to help kick addiction.
 
The study’s researchers plan to test the treatment on heavy drinkers who want to quit drinking, as opposed to the current study’s participants who were not trying to quit. Despite the findings, ibudilast is not a currently available treatment for alcoholism, and further clinical trials are needed to validate ibudilast’s efficacy as a treatment option.  
 
Reference
 
Drug shows promise for treating alcoholism [news release]. UCLA’s website. . Accessed Feb. 2, 2017. 
 

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