Binge drinking can be stopped with a pill

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By the end of the 12-week study, those who were given naltrexone reported binging less frequently and drinking less alcohol than those who were given a placebo, a change that lasted for six months . The most common side effect of naltrexone was nausea, although this was usually mild and resolved on its own as people adjusted to taking the drug.

Glenn-Milo Santos, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco and lead author of the study, said patients can discuss treatment options with their physicians, even if it may not be appropriate for everyone. “Raising awareness that there are effective medications that can help people with alcohol use is important,” he said.

Taking naltrexone on an as-needed basis rather than a daily dose may be more tolerable for some people because it allows their dopamine levels to recover in between uses. The approach may let people feel more in control of their treatment. The practice has been more widely adopted in Europe, where in 2013 regulators approved the drug nalmefene for similarly targeted dosing by people trying to drink less.

Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, a physician-scientist at the National Institutes of Health, said the latest study was “very important,” because alcoholism treatments traditionally designed for people with severe addictions far more people like the study’s participants. , mild or moderate alcohol disorder.

Last year, NIH officials proposed rebranding these stages as “prediabetes” to underscore the need for early intervention, much as the diabetes field has improved care by identifying and treating prediabetes. .

“If we attack the medical problem promptly and early, you can not only treat the problem but prevent the development of more severe forms of the disease,” Dr. Leggio said.

The recent study specifically enrolled gay and transgender men, groups who have a higher prevalence of binge drinking, so the findings may not apply to all binge drinkers. Participants were recruited “through street outreach, recruitment fliers, sexual health clinics, needle exchanges, community organizations, bars, websites and social media,” according to the study, and additional participants in an unrelated study also enlisted. was invited. Nearly everyone involved in the study reported having some college education and a regular health care provider.

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