An existing anticonvulsant medication called Topiramate has already proven to be a helpful aid for people looking to reduce heavy drinking problems. Could it also help people looking to curb their heavy drinking without completely giving up alcohol? Researchers at Penn Medicine recently set out to answer that question, and their study yielded promising results.
Reduce Heavy Drinking
The Topiramate study
The double-blind trial consisted of 138 heavy drinkers (at least 24 drinks a week for men, 18 for women) who received 12 weeks of medical treatment along with some therapeutic counseling. But only half of the patients actually received 200 mg/day of Topiramate. The other half was given a placebo in order to truly judge Topiramate’s effectiveness in comparison to those who unknowingly underwent the same daily procedures without ingesting the drug.
“This study represents an important next step in understanding and treating problem drinking,” said Henry R. Kranzler, MD, director of Penn Medicine’s Center for Studies of Addiction, and the lead author of the study. “Our study is the first we are aware of in which Topiramate was evaluated as a treatment option for patients who want to limit their drinking to safe levels, rather than stop drinking altogether.”
The Topiramate effect
The results showed that Topiramate did indeed have a significant impact, reducing heavy drinking days and increasing abstinent days. At the conclusion of the study, members of the placebo group were five times more likely to experience a heavy drinking day than those in the Topiramate group.
However, analysis also revealed another important finding: only individuals with a specific genetic variance truly reaped the benefits of Topiramate. This variance is only found in 40 percent of European Americans and involves a receptor in the brain that plays a key role in Topiramate’s effects on drinking.
Implications for the future of treatment
These results bear important implications for the future of personalized alcohol abuse treatment. The validation that Topiramate can help reduce heavy drinking for people who are not looking to eliminate alcohol consumption altogether provides those individuals with a treatment option that did not previously exist. Because of it, we may very well see an increased amount of people coming forward and seeking some type of help, regardless of whether or not they would qualify as having an alcohol use disorder in a clinical context.
The identification of the genetic mutation that makes certain individuals susceptible to the positive effects of Topiramate may be the most important discovery. With that knowledge, people will be able to obtain a better understanding of what options are available for them as an individual in order to achieve their goals. At the same time, doctors can avoid over prescription of the drug to people who simply will not see results.
Reduce Heavy Drinking
In the meantime, there are addiction treatment centers that offer an opportunity to recover from alcoholism for those who are suffering today. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse, get help. Call The Watershed today: 1-800-861-1768.