New data supports use of muscle relaxant to treat alcoholism

New data supports use of muscle relaxant to treat alcoholism

French health care authorities gathered at a Paris conference on March 17 to announce that two clinical studies had been finalized, and their results support the use of the muscle relaxant baclofen in alcoholism treatment.

Baclofen is often used to treat muscle spasms, ease muscular pain, stiffness or cramps. But since the drug was originally designed to treat epilepsy, it contains anti-anxiety and anti-craving properties that may be able to assist individuals aiming to curb their alcohol intake.

The first study included 320 participants — ages 18 to 65 — who consumed a daily average of 13 alcoholic drinks and were not asked to stop drinking. Researchers administered doses of baclofen that increased from 5 to 300 milligrams to 162 participants for a period of 13 months. The other 158 participants were given a placebo drug.

The subjects who took baclofen experienced more serious adverse side effects, such as depression and insomnia. However, the collected data showed that more than 56 percent of the participants who received baclofen either stopped drinking or maintained their alcohol consumption within moderate levels, in contrast to 36 percent who took the placebo.

Thus, the researchers determined that positive results are met when high doses of baclofen are administered for more than a year to populations struggling with alcoholism. Philippe Jaury, M.D., Ph.D., and lead researcher, stated that the results were “very interesting, even exceptional ones.”

Jaury’s study has been endorsed by L’Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP) — one the most extensive public hospital systems in the world, serving roughly 8 million patients around the globe. According to AP-HP, these results could be a game changer due to the fact that alcoholism is generally deemed to be untreatable.

The second study presented last month also included 320 participants, but this time 158 were given a maximum of 180 milligrams of baclofen while 162 received a placebo for seven months. The participants had an average intake of alcohol of 9.5 beverages a day.  

Again, researchers observed a more significant reduction in alcohol consumption among the participants taking baclofen. The difference in reduction rates between the two groups was a lot lower in this trial — participants taking baclofen were roughly 10 percent more successful than others. And there were no substantial variations between abstinence rates between the two groups of subjects, as there were in Jaury’s research.

Michel Reynaud, an addiction psychiatrist and the lead researcher of the study, explained that no differences were found between groups in terms of abstinence because the participants included in his study were more focused on reducing the amount of alcohol they consumed, rather than becoming abstinent.

Reynaud’s research raised eyebrows because… (continue reading)