Health

February 11, 2017

New drug may help people with alcohol addiction reduce drinking

New drug may help people with alcohol addiction reduce drinking

A new drug may benefit people with alcohol addiction, particularly those who are experiencing high levels of stress, a new study suggests.

The new study involved 144 people with alcohol use disorder, which is defined as drinking that causes them harm or distress, including problems at work and with relationships. At the start of the study, participants were consuming 10 alcohol drinks a day, on average.

The researchers randomly assigned participants to take either the new drug, called ABT-436, or a placebo (a “dummy pill”) every day for 12 weeks. The study was double blinded, meaning that neither the participants nor the researchers knew which people had received the drug, and which had received the placebo.

Participants who took the drug ended up having more alcohol-free days during the 12-week study, compared with those in the placebo group. On average, participants in the drug group were able to abstain from alcohol for 51 days over the course of the study, while people in the placebo group were able to abstain for 42 days.

The participants in the drug group also had fewer “heavy drinking” days (days in which they consumed more than 4 to 5 alcoholic drinks), compared with those in the placebo group. Participants in the drug group had 31 heavy drinking days during the course of the study, on average, and those in the placebo group had 38 heavy drinking days on average. However, this finding was not statistically significant, meaning it did not meet the researchers’ criteria for a meaningful difference between the groups, and it could have been due chance. This means the researchers are less certain that the drug works to reduce the number of days on which people drink heavily.

But in participants who reported high levels of stress, the drug seemed to work better. Those who scored high on a test aimed at measuring their anxiety and tension reported 27 heavy drinking days, on average, if they were in the drug group, compared to 46 heavy drinking days if they were in the placebo group.

ABT-436 works by blocking the effects of a brain chemical called vasopressin, which is thought to play a role in regulating stress, anxiety and addictive behaviours, the researchers said.