A new study by researchers at UCLA has found that an anti-inflammatory drug, also known as ibudilast, significantly reduces alcohol cravings in heavy drinkers. Currently, the drug is being used in Japan to treat asthma.
Moreover, the medication appears to reduce pleasurable feelings related to alcohol consumption, and also reduces symptoms of depression.
For the study, seventeen men and seven women were given either ibudilast or a placebo for six consecutive days. Prior the study, all participants reported drinking alcohol, on average, around twenty-one days per month, and consuming seven alcoholic beverages per day on their drinking days.
After a two-week interval, those who took ibudilast were switched to a placebo, and those taking the placebo were switched to ibudilast.
Reactions of the participants were measured as they were asked to hold and smell a glass of their preferred alcoholic beverage (they were not allowed to drink it, however.)
Researchers state that the participants’ alcohol cravings were significantly lower in those taking ibudilast versus the placebo. Those on ibudilast also reported improved mood.
Additionally, on the sixth day of each study phase, participants were given an intravenous dose of alcohol to determine its interaction with the medication, to determine if it could be administered safely during alcohol consumption. It was found to be both safe and well-tolerated.
Side effects from the medication were reported as mild, and included nausea and some abdominal pain.
As it turns out, chronic alcohol consumption has shown to increase brain inflammation in animals, and previous studies found that ibudilast was effective at reducing alcohol consumption in rats. No one knew, however, if that effect would translate to humans as well.
According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Lara Ray, a UCLA professor of psychology, testing new alcoholism treatments is important because the Food and Drug Administration has approved just four treatments for alcohol abuse so far, and these have shown only modest effectiveness.
While the new study shows promise, more trials are needed. Ray says next, she plans to test the drug on heaving drinkers who have a desire to quit drinking (those in the study did not.)
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology