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Anti-smoking drug may curb alcohol abuse

The smoking-cessation drug varenicline (marketed in the United States as Chantix), may be also be used as a viable option for treating alcoholism, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The results, published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, show that varenicline reduced the cravings and number of drinks consumed per day of people identified as alcohol dependent. Study participants self-reported that they consumed on average 28-35 drinks per week.

"This is an encouraging development in our effort to expand and improve treatment options for people with alcohol dependence," said Dr. Kenneth R. Warren, acting director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a division of the NIH, in a statement. "Current medications for alcohol dependence are effective for some, but not all, patients. New medications are needed to provide effective therapy to a broader spectrum of alcohol dependent individuals."

The study suggested that varenicline treats alcoholism and nicotine addiction in a similar manner. The drug stimulates the neurotransmitter involved in producing the rewarding feelings in the brain. These findings were first observed in early animal studies, which showed that treatment with varenicline reduced alcohol consumption.

The NIH defines alcoholism as a chronic disease that includes the symptoms of cravings, loss of control, physical dependence and tolerance. There are an estimated 18 million Americans who suffer from alcohol addiction according to the NIH. The results of the varenicline study are a promising addition in the fight against substance abuse.

If someone you love is consuming too many drinks per day, you should act now. Intervention Services can assist you in arranging an alcohol intervention so your loved one can get the help that he or she needs.

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