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New Class of Drugs for Alcoholism

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The effects of heavy alcohol consumption can be lasting, affecting a number of aspects of people’s lives. The treatment of alcoholism has come a long way in recent years, thanks in part to tireless research on effective therapies and the development of various medications. Nevertheless, research on the disease of alcoholism continues and scientists are always on the lookout for ways to make the chances of successful recovery greater. This week, researchers are presenting their findings on a new class of drugs for treating alcoholism, ScienceDaily reports.

Current Drugs Carry Certain Risks

Today, alcohol detoxification often involves benzodiazepines such as Valium ®, a sedative that is quite effective at diminishing the symptoms of withdrawal. Valium ®, while effective, also carries with it side effects, one of which being that benzodiazepines are highly addictive; if used for an extended period of time, the drugs can be quite difficult to stop taking.

Another drug currently being used to treat alcoholics is naltrexone. The drug has been found to reduce the craving for alcohol with some patients and block the pleasurable feelings that people experience when they drink. The drug comes in a pill form and an injectable, long-acting version.

“They dampen out the dopamine system a little bit, so you don’t get so happy when you have an alcoholic beverage,” says James Cook, Ph.D., a chemist at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

While the drug has shown some promise, there are concerns about the fact that naltrexone is an opioid antagonists, and as such it can be habit forming and some people have developed depression.

New Drugs – Less Side Effects

For over two decades Cook, along with the late Harry June, Ph.D., a psychopharmacologist at Howard University, studied the effects of drug used to treat alcoholism. Cook advised V. V. N. Phani Babu Tiruveedhula, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Tiruveedhula has created beta-carboline compounds, drugs which could be the future of treating alcoholism, according to the article.

The compounds have shown a lot of promise with craving reductions in animal tests, and there were no side effects, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Diminished Ability to Experience Pleasure

“What excites me is the compounds are orally active, and they don’t cause depression like some drugs do,” says Cook.


If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol, please contact Design for Change to begin the journey of recovery.

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