provided by: Medical News Today
A popular smoking cessation drug dramatically reduced the amount a
heavy drinker will consume, a new Yale School of Medicine study has
Heavy-drinking smokers in a laboratory setting were much less likely to
drink after taking the drug varenicline compared to those taking a
placebo, according to a study published online in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
The group taking varenicline, sold as a stop-smoking aid under the name Chantix,
reported feeling fewer cravings for alcohol and less intoxicated when
they did drink. They were also much more likely to remain abstinent
after being offered drinks than those who received a placebo, the study
Additionally, there were no adverse effects associated with combining
varenicline with alcohol in the doses studied. When combined with low
doses of alcohol, varenicline did not change blood pressure or heart
rate, nor did it seem to induce nausea or dizziness.
"We anticipate that the results of this preliminary study will trigger
clinical trials of varenicline as a primary treatment for alcohol use
disorders, and as a potential dual treatment for alcohol and tobacco
use disorders," said Sherry McKee, associate professor of psychiatry at
the Yale School of Medicine and lead author of the study.
Smokers are more likely to drink alcohol and to consume greater
quantities of alcohol, and they are four times more likely to meet
criteria for alcohol use disorders. Diseases related to tobacco use are
the leading causes of death in alcoholics.
"A medication such as varenicline, which may target shared biological
systems in alcohol and nicotine use, holds promise as a treatment for
individuals with both disorders" according to McKee.
McKee said that 80% of participants receiving varenicline did not take
a drink at all, compared to 30% of the placebo group. The findings
suggest that varenicline has the potential to be at least as effective
in reducing drinking as naltrexone,
another drug found to reduce alcohol consumption in heavy drinkers.
Unlike naltrexone, varenicline is not metabolized by the liver and may
be safe to use by those with impaired liver function, a frequent
consequence of heavy alcohol use, McKee said.
Other Yale authors of the study are; Emily L.R. Harrison, Stephanie S.
O'Malley, Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, Julia Shi, Jeanette M. Tetrault,
Marina R. Picciotto, Ismene L. Petrakis, Naralys Estevez, and Erika
The study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health.