The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse is working in cooperation with the pharmaceutical company Xenoport on a collaborative study that will examine the effectiveness of extended release tablets designed to treat individuals who are addicted to alcohol. This is one of many recent clinical studies that are examining whether certain drugs may be an effective means of helping alcoholics to deal with some of the physiological effects of withdrawing from alcohol.
The Partnership Between Xenoport and NIAAA
In the study, Xenoport will be responsible for supplying researchers with the necessary materials. The NIAAA will be taking care of all expenses associated with the study on the proposed drug, which is referred to at this time as Horizant.
Xenoport, the company who intends to release Horizant, will be able to use the information gained from the study to present to regulators as they work to bring Horizant to the market. In the study, around 350 patients who suffer from alcohol addiction will be given both the drug and a placebo over a testing period of six months.
Alcoholism Affects Many
The push for effective treatment for alcoholism continues to be a major industry in the United States, as alcoholism continues to impact as many as 17 million people. Alcohol, unlike many of the substances that people suffer from addictions to, is a legal drug.
Beyond being legal, it is a part of many social settings, a situation that leads countless alcoholics to struggle with their disease, and which may promote the continued growing addiction to alcoholism in this country. Like drugs such as opiates, alcohol causes extreme withdrawal symptoms when a person stops consuming it.
Those who suddenly cease taking alcohol, especially without medical supervision, are frequently subject to severe symptoms like seizures, nausea, and tremors. Medical professionals who advocate for the use of drugs to ease the transition into sobriety believe that such drugs may help the body to cope with the transition from using to sobriety.
Why Do Drugs Work In Sobriety
Drugs have been used to help addicts transition into sobriety for quite sometime. Methadone, for example, is a very popular means of helping recovering heroin and opiate addicts to remain sober.
The reason these drugs can be effective is that they impact the brain's reward centers in the way that the drug an addict was addicted to, but they do not cause many of the mind altering side effects that the addictive drug did. They also do not cause many of the dangerous effects that come hand in hand with many addictive drugs.
Alcohol, for example, puts users at serious risk for problems with their heart and liver. It also causes serious changes in behavior that can be highly dangerous in and of themselves.
When a recovering addict takes a drug that simulates the effects of a drug, their brain's reward center is satisfied and thus may not set about the neurological chain of events that can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms, and, so often, relapse.
The Future of Horizant
Horizant is a drug that is currently licensed for use in treatment of restless leg syndrome as well as postherpetic neuralgia. If the findings of the study by the NIAAA and Xenoport support their hypothesis that the drug is effective as a means of controlling alcohol use, Xenoport may very likely be able to find clearance in the FDA to use the drug to combat alcoholism.
It is unclear if doctors are currently using the drug off label. Many experts in the recovery community are hopeful about the outcome of the study and the effectiveness of the drug.