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Nalmefene Helps Alcoholics Who Won’t Quit Drink Less

A new study shows that Nalmefene helps alcoholics who can’t quit, or aren’t ready to quit, to reduce their consumption.

Alcoholics who just can’t or won’t stop drinking entirely might find the drug Nalemfene helpful.

Nalemfene is an opiate antagonist that works similarly to Naltrexone. If you take Nalemfene, and then go drinking, you don’t get that same pleasurable buzz and you don’t have much of an incentive to continue with it. This way, in theory, it helps people cut down.

But how well does it work? To find out, researchers at the Central Institute of Mental Health in Germany recruited 604 alcoholics for a 24 week experiment on the medication’s usefulness.

The Study

  • The study subjects (alcoholics) were divided into 2 groups. Half received Nalemfene and half received a visually identical placebo medication.
  • The subjects were instructed to take a pill (either Nalemfene or a placebo) on any day they felt like they might be at risk of drinking, on an as needed basis.
  • Results were measured by self reports of alcohol consumption and liver enzyme testing.

The Results

  • Subjects taking Nalemfene reduced their alcohol consumption significantly more than subjects taking a placebo.
  • Subjects taking Nalemfene showed greater improvements in liver functioning (as measured by liver enzymes)
  • Subjects reported few or no mild side effects.


The study authors wrote, “Our new findings may mark a true paradigm shift in the treatment of men and women who suffer from alcohol related disorders. While abstinence should be the best bet, a reduction in consumption may be a valuable alternative for the many patients who cannot attain abstinence or are not (yet) capable of doing so.”

Read the full study findings in Biological Psychology

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Story Highlights
  • Nalmefene: Helps alcoholics cut down their consumption by taking the buzz away from drinking
  • Harm Reduction: Nalmefene helps people that are not ready or able to quit, reduce the harms of the habits
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