Drug May Help to Alleviate Alcoholism

By Bower, Bruce | Science News, March 16, 1996 | Go to article overview

Drug May Help to Alleviate Alcoholism


Bower, Bruce, Science News


Brief treatment with a drug that dampens pleasurable sensations induced by the brain's natural opiates may offer significant help to alcoholics, especially when teamed with training in ways to avoid and resist alcohol cravings. The drug, naltrexone, was approved last year by the Food and Drug Administration for use with psychological treatments for alcoholism. "We suspect that naltrexone blocks physiologically reinforcing effects of alcohol and makes alcohol less stimulating and attractive," contends Stephanie S. O'Malley, a psychologist at Yale University School of Medicine. The new investigation, described by O'Malley and her coworkers in the March Archives of General Psychiatry, expands on their initial report (SN: 11/21/92, p. 341). In the project, 97 people seeking treatment for alcohol dependence at an outpatient clinic randomly received either daily naltrexone or placebo pills, as well as weekly therapy either teaching coping skills-ways to decrease stress and avoid alcohol use-or offering general encouragement to stay sober.

Over the course of the 3-month treatment period, the two naltrexone groups displayed far greater abstinence rates than the placebo groups. …

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