News Feature | February 21, 2014

Anti-Epilepsy Drug Could Help Drinkers Curb Habit

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By Marcus Johnson

A drug that is currently being used to treat epilepsy has shown promise in helping drinkers consume less alcohol. A study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Studies of Addiction treated patients with Topamax (topiramate). The study included 138 “heavy drinkers” and concluded that those drinkers were up to five times less likely than a placebo group to have a heavy drinking day after receiving treatment. They were also more likely than the placebo group to have a day of no drinking at all.

Dr. Henry Kranzler believes the study shows the potential of Topamax’s use as a drug to help those struggling with alcohol. “This study represents an important next step in understanding and treating problem drinking. Our study is the first we are aware of in which topiramate was evaluated as an option for patients who want to limit their drinking to safe levels, rather than stop drinking altogether. Our hope is that the study will result in additional research focusing to help patients who have struggled with heavy drinking and the problems it causes, but who are unable or unwilling to abstain from alcohol altogether.”

The study also found that there could be a genetic component to treatment. Forty-percent of European-Americans in the study benefited from Topamax treatment, suggesting that treatment in the future could be individualized for certain individuals.  Kranzelr believes that the study could eventually lead to a model which could help predict if a drinker actually needs treatment to curb his or her habit.