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Alcohol Abuse Medications

Common Anti-Smoking Drug Varenicline (Chantix) Helps Heavy Drinkers Cut Down

posted 01:15 PM EST, Mon May 07, 2012
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In a recent study, the common anti smoking drug varenicline (Chantix) helped heavy drinkers reduce consumption by 36%.

Researchers at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at the University of California say that the commonly used smoking cessation medication varenicline, sold under the brand name Chantix, may also work to help heavy drinkers cut down on their consumption.

The Study

Heavy smoking study subjects were assigned to one of 2 groups:

  1. A group that was given varenicline
  2. A group that was given a placebo medication

Study participants were looking to quit smoking but were not seeking to reduce their alcohol consumption.

The Results

At the end of the study, the researchers looked at how well varenicline helped people beat tobacco addiction and at how the medication affected drinking habits.

They found that:

  • Study participants using varenicline reduced the number of alcoholic drinks they consumed per week by an average of 36%
  • People on varenicline did not reduce the frequency of their drinking sessions but drank fewer drinks per session


The researchers say that the medication might work to help drinkers cut down as it helps smokers quit because alcohol and nicotine stimulate similar reward pathways in the brain. Varenicline blocks some of this reward pathway activation.

Commenting on the implications of the research, study leader Jennifer Mitchell, PhD argued that a medication that helped people reduce their overall consumption could have enormous health and social benefits, saying, “If you currently drink seven drinks a night, and we can turn that into two or three, then you're not only drinking at a level that's going to harm you less, you're less likely to harm others, as well. If we could lower the rates of drunk driving, spousal and child abuse and other secondary effects of alcoholism, that would be tremendous."   

The full research results can be found in the journal, Psychopharmacology.

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Story Highlights
  • Chantix: This popular smoking cessation medication may also work as a medication to help alcohol abusers drink less
  • Alcohol and nicotine - Similar Reward Pathways in the Brain: Researchers suspect that the drug blocks some of alcohol's rewarding aspects, making heavy drinking a less pleasurable experience
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