Seizure Drug May Treat Alcoholism
Study Shows Fewer Heavy Drinking Days for Patients Treated With Topamax
WebMD News Archive
Fewer Drinks and Drinking Days continued...
Study participants were treated with up to 300 milligrams of Topamax a day
or a placebo during the 14-week trial. Both groups had a weekly, 15-minute
session with a health care provider designed to promote adherence to
Only 5% of the Topamax users and 2.7% of the placebo users reported
attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings during the study.
Compared with placebo treatment, treatment with Topamax was associated with
an 8% greater reduction in the percentage of heavy drinking days during the
trial, the researchers reported.
Researcher Bankole Johnson, MD, PhD, tells WebMD that alcoholics in the
trial who took Topamax went from the equivalent of drinking a bottle and a half
of wine a day to about 3 1/2 glasses of wine.
"I think that is a big difference," he says. "Most people can
manage that amount of alcohol without getting into too much trouble."
The researchers reported that Topamax users had a greater rate of achieving
28 or more days of continuous nonheavy drinking during the study and 28 days of
But they were also more likely to drop out of the trials due to side
effects, with 34 doing so in the Topamax group compared with just eight in the
Half of the Topamax users experienced burning or prickling sensations in
their extremities, compared with 20% of placebo-treated patients. Concentration
problems, loss of appetite, and a distorted sense of taste were also more
common compared with those taking placebo.
But Johnson says most of these side effects disappear over time. Some of his
alcohol-dependent patients have been taking Topamax for as long as two years,
and he says they will likely stay on it.
"I think we are about to see a paradigm shift in the treatment of
alcohol dependence," he says. "This treatment and the other drug
treatments offer people an alternative that they haven't had before."
Drugs to Stop Drinking
Addiction treatment expert Mark L. Willenbring, MD, agrees, but adds that
drugs should not be seen as a replacement for today's most widely used nondrug
treatments like rehab and Alcoholics Anonymous.