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The Alcoholism Pill

Researchers and drug companies have been searching for a drug to aid in treatment of alcohol dependence for a long time, but with little real success. However, a recent study using Topamax (a migraine headache and epilepsy medication) found a certain subset of alcoholics either significantly reduced their drinking or quit altogether when taking it.

Addiction specialists not involved in the study said the findings are promising, although side effects such as trouble concentrating, tingling and itching caused about one in five people to drop out of the study. Drowsiness and dizziness are also problems.

“The size of the treatment effect is larger than in most of the other medications we’ve seen,” said Dr. Mark Willenbring of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “And all the drinking variables changed in the right direction.”

The study, published in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association, was funded by the maker of the drug, Johnson & Johnson Inc.’s Ortho-McNeil Neurologics. The researchers also reported financial ties to the company. Ortho-McNeil reviewed the manuscript, but did not change the results or interpretation, the researchers reported.

I think the end of the article is right, there will be a real pharmaceutical treatment for alcohol dependence sometime in the future, perhaps relatively soon. It will then be fascinating to watch how beliefs about alcohol use and treatment for problem drinking evolves in its wake.

The Alcoholism Pill

Will Meek, PhD

Will Meek PhD is a psychologist in Vancouver, Washington, and writes weekly at his blog: Vancouver Counseling.

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APA Reference
Meek, W. (2018). The Alcoholism Pill. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 22, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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