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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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Quit-Smoking Drug May Curb Alcoholism

Smoking-Cessation Drug Chantix Reduces Drinking in Lab Tests on Alcoholic Rats

Chantix Not Ready for Alcoholism Treatment continued...

"We eagerly await the clinical trial to see if it actually works in humans," Moss tells WebMD. "I just want to be sure that people understand that they shouldn't just try this on their own."

Bartlett's study "is pretty exciting," says Moss, who is the associate director for clinical and translational research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

"But there have been occasions where medications have worked great in animal models but have failed to live up to their promise in humans," says Moss.

In June, Moss and colleagues identified five subtypes of alcoholics -- and reported that more than half of U.S. alcoholics are young adults.

At the time, Moss told WebMD that people who suspect they may have a problem with alcohol to talk about it with their health care provider, since alcohol dependence "must be viewed as a severe disease."

Behavioral Therapy for Alcoholism

Bartlett, Heilig, and Moss note that a drug -- be it Chantix or something else -- isn't likely to be the sole solution to alcoholism.

"We wouldn't want patients to go running to their doctors and say, "Can I have this drug?" because it may not work unless they have behavioral therapy as well," says Bartlett, referring to Chantix.

Each person has a different genetic profile, and "some drugs work better for some people than other drugs," says Bartlett.

Moss puts it this way: "There is no magic bullet yet where we don't need behavioral modification in addition to medications to help people."

Heilig has some advice for people who suspect they may have a problem with alcohol: "Educate yourself and then seek treatment because there are already good treatments to be had."

"I think we need a good mix of very practical, change-oriented and compliance-oriented behavioral therapies and we need good medications," says Heilig.

Overcoming Alcoholism's Stigma

"Alcoholism is still more stigmatized than mental illness, and mental illness is pretty stigmatized," says Bartlett.

Heilig agrees. Alcoholism's stigma is "easing somewhat, but it's still sufficient to keep a large number of people -- the majority -- out of treatment," says Heilig.

Heilig says he would tell people dealing with alcohol problems to "try to see through the stigma and the perception of hopelessness or the perception that it's a character problem that you have to deal with yourself."

"The addicted brain is altered. It's very difficult, even for a person with the best of will, to deal with that on their own," says Heilig.

"On the other hand," Heilig adds, "with adequate help, change can happen and does happen. So that's a message of hope."

  • Are you struggling to quit drinking?Find support on WebMD’s Addiction and Substance Abuse Support Group message board.

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