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Drug to help alcoholics stay sober: study

health-and-fitness Updated: Feb 26, 2009 18:41 IST

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Scientists are on track to find a more effective treatment for alcoholism, with the discovery that a hormone disorder drug could help drinkers stay sober.

According to researchers at the University of California - San Francisco-affiliated Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, a drug prescribed for male and female infertility and menstrual disorders could hold the key to getting rid of the problem.

The study, reported in the journal Biological Psychiatry, showed that "alcoholic" rodents, when injected with the drug cabergoline, decreased their alcohol consumption and alcohol-seeking behavior and were less likely to relapse. “This is encouraging,” said Dorit Ron, who led the study in the United States. “It demonstrates that cabergoline is specific for alcohol, but does not affect general reward or pleasure. One of the problems with some existing drugs to treat alcoholism is a side effect that decreases pleasure, making compliance an obstacle to sobriety," underlined Ron, a principal investigator at the Gallo Center and associate professor of neurology at UCSF.

“We show that in mice and rats, a low dose of the drug is enough to reduce excessive alcohol consumption, alcohol seeking and relapse. The dose is similar to what is given to humans for the treatment of hyperprolactinemia,” he was quoted as saying by the Science Daily online. (MORE) PRI ALCOHOLISM 2 LST For the study, rats underwent a two-month training programme in which they learned to press a lever to obtain alcohol. The researchers in the United States found that when rats were injected with cabergoline, they were less likely to press the lever.

The higher the dose of cabergoline, the lower the number of lever presses reported. According to the report, it was found that binge-drinking mice consumed less alcohol after cabergoline administration. In further study, the researchers found that cabergoline was effective in reducing both craving for alcohol and relapse to drinking. Relapse is a critical issue for alcoholic patients trying to stay abstinent.

Although the results of the study offer fresh hope to problem drinkers, Ron warned that human clinical trials are needed before cabergoline can be safely prescribed. Higher doses of cabergoline have been used to treat Parkinson’s disease and have been linked to heart valve problems. Cabergoline, which is marketed under the trade name Dostinex, is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in pill form to treat conditions caused by excess of the hormone prolactin, the report said.