A drug named gabapentin has been noted for treating the symptoms and withdrawal effects of alcohol dependence, otherwise known as alcoholism. It is normally used as a treatment for epilepsy (seizures are one noted side-effect of withdrawals from drastic alcohol dependence) and for some kinds of chronic pain.
The results of a placebo-controlled study by the Scripps Research Institute has confirmed this.
There are several other types of drugs that are approved by the FDA that are used in accordance with alcohol dependency, but those drugs, such as disulfram, or Anabuse®, are used more as preventative measures against drinking rather than treating the drinking or the withdrawals themselves. Gabapentin effectively “fills a gap” in the world of medications and treatments used to treat alcoholism and it’s side-effects during early abstinence, from heavy to mild drinkers who are trying to quit.
In a new bit of research published on November 4th, 2013 in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, Barbara J. Mason, Pearson Family Professor and co-director of the Pearson Center for Alcoholism and Addiction Research at The Scripps Research Institute says that the effect of gabapentin on people who are coming out of the throws of alcohol dependency is greater and more beneficial than existing FDA-approved treatments. She explains that “it's the only medication shown to improve sleep and mood in people who are quitting or reducing their drinking”.
What Is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin, which is the generic name for the drug which also goes by a few other names, is mainly used to treat epilepsy and the pain from neuropathic damage from the effects of having diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
Gabapentin affects an area of the brain known as the neurotransmitters, which are what enables your brain to send messages to the rest of your body. There are several different kinds, but gabapentin affects the GABA transmitters, which are the ones that deal with pleasure and relaxation.
Usage of alcohol also affects the same neurotransmitters, thus making drinking pleasurable, but over time and through high consumption dulls and suppresses them.
What Is Alcoholism, And What Do Withdrawals Look Like?
Alcoholism is basically defined by an obsession to drink at any time during the day, despite the consequences or circumstances. It has been recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA) as a genetic disease. Alcoholics drink no matter what, and such drinking is usually followed by extreme behavior, making the person “not themselves”. Constant repercussions follow the alcoholic because of his drinking.
Once someone quits drinking, a variety of harsh and sometimes unexpected side-effects can occur. The withdrawls as reported by WebMD.com are commonly: - Extreme anxiety, irritability and agitation - Insomnia - Nausea and/or vomiting - Shakiness, especially in the hands - Hallucinations - Confusion - Rapid Heartbeat - Fever - Seizures - Delirium Tremens (also known as DTs)
The side-effects from the withdrawal from alcohol dependency can be also be life-threatening, especially from the seizures and DTs that occur.
Prolonged, heavy drinking over years at a time can disrupt the brain’s neurotransmitters, especially the aforementioned GABA neurotransmitters. What happens is that the neurotransmitters eventually get suppressed and do not work as well without the presence of alcohol. Prolonged, heavy drinking can also result in severe heart and liver disease, which are often fatal.
Gabapentin And Withdrawals From Heavy Drinking
As stated earlier, the medications which exist on the market today acts mainly as preventative measures for someone who is try to quit drinking. Total abstinence and time are the known cures for alcoholism.
Withdrawals are often treated in outpatient settings or detox facilities, and a wide variety of drugs are used in treat specific symptoms, such as: - Dilatin, an anti-seizure medication which does not treat withdrawal seizures but helps people with a pre-existing low seizure threshold - benzodiazepines, which help reduce anxiety and confusion, as well as stem the possibility of DTs and seizures, although it is not guaranteed - carbamazepine, which is an anticonvulsant used for people who have mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms in place of benzodiazepines, which can be addictive and have withdrawal symptoms of their own.
But there exists no such drug insofar as treating multiple symptoms at a time, and gabapentin seems to be the first so far.
As stated earlier, seizures are one major side-effect of the withdrawals from heavy drinking, and often can result in injury or even death. Gabapentin treats such symptoms and also improves sleep and mood, which are in constant flux for someone who is going through alcohol withdrawals.