WEDNESDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- The quit-smoking drug
Chantix may also help problem drinkers cut their alcohol
consumption, a small new study suggests.
Exactly how this drug curbs drinking is not fully understood,
but its use may increase blood pressure, heart rate and feelings of
sadness and nausea, thereby blunting the pleasurable effects of
alcohol, the researchers said.
"Chantix might reduce alcohol consumption by reducing overall enjoyment of the alcohol drinking experience," said study author Emma Childs, a research associate at the University of Chicago.
"Chantix increased the unpleasant effects of alcohol, for example feeling drowsy and irritable, [and] participants also reported that they didn't like the alcohol effects as much," Childs said.
Approved to help smokers quit in 2006, Chantix (varenicline) has
its share of potential side effects. In July 2009, the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration mandated that Chantix carry a "black box"
warning about the potential risks of depression and suicidal
thoughts. Recently, the drug was linked to a small but significant
risk of heart attack and stroke among people with pre-existing
heart disease. Chantix costs roughly $3 per pill.
The results of the new study were released online in
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research prior to
publication in the May print issue.
The study included 15 healthy participants who took part in six
sessions. They received a 2-mg dose of Chantix and an inactive
placebo, followed three hours later by a beverage containing either
a placebo, a low dose of alcohol, or a high dose of alcohol.
Before and after the sessions, the researchers asked the
participants about their mood, tested visual ability and measured
physiological responses such as blood pressure and heart rate.
The participants found the Chantix-booze combination increased
the unpleasant effects of alcohol and reduced the rewarding aspects
Whether the drug might someday be approved to help problem
drinkers cut back remains to be seen, said the researchers, who
acknowledged that the study's small size is a limitation.
"We are not currently performing any studies with Chantix, although other groups are actively pursuing this line of research with a view to developing Chantix as an aid to people wanting to quit or cut down their drinking," Childs said.
Dr. Ihsan Salloum, professor of psychiatry and director of the
alcohol and drug abuse treatment program at the University of Miami
Miller School of Medicine, termed the study encouraging.
Noting that new ways of treating alcoholism are much needed,
Salloum said that Chantix may have a niche among smokers with
alcohol-dependence issues. "We need a lot more options in terms of
medicines to help curb drinking," he said. "We have many options
for depression and need more for alcoholism, considering it is one
of the most common diseases around the world."
More research is needed, he noted, but "this medication may be
helpful for people with a drinking problem who are also
The study was funded by the U.S. National Institute on Drug
Abuse and the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and
Learn more about alcoholism and how it is treated at the
U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and
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