Finally, A Pill for Alcoholism

Topiramate is Highly Effective

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Topiramate, an anti-seizure drug usually prescribed for epileptic patients, is highly effective in helping alcohol-dependent individuals stop drinking. It is a derivative of the naturally occurring sugar monosaccharide D-fructose and long-term studies show no serious problems related to taking this drug.

It is the first medication effective for alcohol abusers who are still drinking.

Drinkers get pleasure from alcohol when it releases the chemical dopamine in the brain.

 Topiramate works by "washing away" the excess dopamine. In other words, alcoholics no longer get any pleasure from drinking.

Clinical Evidence for the Alcoholism Pill

A study reported in The Lancet found heavy drinkers were six times more likely to remain abstinent for a month if they took the medication, even in small doses. Participants taking the placebo were four times more likely to drink heavily during the clinical trial.

All 150 participants were still drinking heavily before they took Topiramate but were planning to quit. Additional findings from this clinical study include:

  • After 3 months, 24 percent of the Topiramate group had abstained continuously for one month. Only 4 percent in the placebo group had one month sober.
  • In the Topiramate group, 50 percent did not binge in the final month, compared with 16 percent, of those taking the placebo
  • 50 percent of the Topiramate group reported less craving for alcohol, compared to 15 percent in the placebo group.

    Benefits of the Alcoholism Pill

    Topiramate is innovative because it provides immediate help for alcoholics in crisis and opens up new directions for the pharmacological treatment of alcohol use disorder. 

    The study's results suggest that even low doses of topiramate have the capacity to ameliorate the anxiety and mood instability that quitting drinking causes.

    It also produced a substantial effect on improving abstinence maintenance and reducing alcohol use

    Side Effects of Topiramate

    While Topiramate can help you with your drinking problem, you may experience side effects, including:

    • headache
    • uncontrollable eye movements and shaking of a part of your body
    • change in ability to taste food
    • missed menstrual periods and excessive menstrual bleeding
    • drowsiness and weakness

    Other Alcoholism Medications

    Researchers have long sought a medication to treat alcoholism. There are only two medications currently approved for treating alcoholics in the U.S. -- disulfiram (Antabuse) and naltrexone. Antabuse does not reduce cravings, it merely makes a drinker feel sick if they consume alcohol. Naltrexone has been shown to reduce cravings in alcoholics who have already quit drinking.

    Another medication, acamprosate, is more effective than naltrexone but is not approved for use in the United States, although it has been for years in Europe. Acamprosate also reduces cravings after the person stops drinking.

    Alcohol Abuse Statistics

    Here are some statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to help you understand the scope of alcohol abuse in the United States.

    • Nearly 14 million Americans – 1 in every 13 adults – abuse alcohol or are alcoholic
    • Several million more adults engage in risky drinking behavior, including binge drinking and heavy drinking on a regular basis, that could lead to alcohol problems
    • 53 percent of men and women report they have close relatives with drinking problems
    • Alcohol-related problems cost society about $185 billion per year


    Medline Plus: Topiramate (2015)

    University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

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