February 21, 2012

A Drug that Helps You Stop Smoking and Drinking?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Good news for those who are trying to quit smoking and drinking, there may be a way to kill two birds with one stone. Varenicline, an effective smoking-cessation medication, may also reduce drinking. However, the means by which it might reduce drinking are still unclear.

"Varenicline was first approved in the USA for treatment of nicotine dependence in 2006," said Emma Childs, research associate at the University of Chicago as well as corresponding author for the study. “After it was approved, several patients treated with varenicline also reported reductions in their drinking, so investigators began to assess if this was an actual effect and how it might be produced."

Childs and her colleagues assessed 15 healthy participants (8 males, 7 females) during six randomized sessions: three sessions each with 2 mg varenicline and placebo, followed three hours later by a beverage containing placebo, a low dose of alcohol (0.4g/kg), or a high dose of alcohol (0.8g/kg). Measures included subjective mood and drug effects such as stimulation and drug liking, physiological measures such as heart rate and blood pressure, and the results of eye-tracking tasks before and after drug and alcohol administration.

"We found that varenicline increased the unpleasant effects of alcohol and decreased drug liking," said Childs, "thus we think that varenicline may reduce drinking by altering the effects of alcohol."

"Our findings shed light on the mechanism underlying why people consume less alcohol when they have taken varenicline. The pleasurable effects of alcohol, for example feeling 'buzzed' and talkative, are associated with greater consumption and binge drinking,” Childs was quoted as saying. “If varenicline counteracts these positive effects by producing unpleasant effects, then as a result people may consume less alcohol during a drinking episode."

SOURCE: May 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (currently available at Early View)