Skip to content

    Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Drug to Treat Nausea Also May Help Alcoholics Stop Drinking

    By
    WebMD Health News

    Aug. 22, 2000 -- The first time Francisco Gomez took a drink at age 15, it was like a "runaway train," he says. "From the beginning, I would drink until I blacked out. From that point on, I basically lived to drink. I joined the military and was stationed on a nuclear submarine that went on 90-day patrols. Of course, there was no drinking, but the minute we hit shore I went straight to a bar."

    Alcohol had cost the 48-year-old Texas man three marriages, countless jobs, and the right to see his two children by the time he sought help for his addiction last year through the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. It was there that he learned he fit the classic profile of an early-onset alcoholic, and it was there that he got the help he needed to stop drinking.

    Gomez was one of 321 alcoholics who took part in a study combining intensive behavioral therapy with the drug Zofran (ondansetron), now used to treat nausea caused by chemotherapy. The therapy, known as cognitive behavioral therapy, helps alcoholics to abstain by improving their ability to deal with situations that can cause them to seek out alcohol, the researchers say.

    Researcher Bankole A. Johnson, MD, PhD, and colleagues found that Zofran, which targets the chemical messenger serotonin in the brain, appeared to help those patients who fit the profile for early-onset alcoholism. Their findings were reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    "We have learned that one of the important features of early-onset alcoholism is that these people have an abnormality in their serotonin system," Johnson tells WebMD. "This does not mean that they don't have other abnormalities, but that the abnormality of serotonin is important."

    Studies suggest that 25 to 30% of alcoholics fit the early-onset profile, which includes having family members who are alcoholic; binge or problem drinking beginning in the teens or early 20s; and the early development of social problems related to drinking. Most early-onset alcoholics also are born risk-takers, according to James Mulligan, MD, medical director of Pennsylvania's Caron Foundation. The Caron Foundation is one of the nation's oldest alcohol centers, treating some 6,000 patients each year.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    child ignored by parents
    Slideshow
    prescription pain pills
    Article
     
    Woman experiencing withdrawal symptoms
    Article
    Teen girl huddled outside house
    Article
     
    Man with glass of scotch
    Article
    overturned shot glass
    Article
     
    assortment of medication
    Article
    Depressed and hurting
    Article