Naltrexone can help heavy social drinkers quit smoking

March 19, 2009

Naltrexone, an opioid antagonist approved in 1994 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for alcohol-dependence (AD) treatment, can reduce relapse rates among AD patients. Research on naltrexone's effectiveness on nicotine dependence is less clear, although researchers believe it may be helpful for specific smoker subgroups. A new study has found that naltrexone can help non-AD smokers who drink heavily on a social basis.

Results will be published in the June issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

"This was a cessation trial," explained Andrea C. King, a psychologist and associate professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Chicago, and first author of the study. "We examined smokers who did not have any other current addiction - besides tobacco - or mental or medical disorders, which may have confounded the results. The range of drinking was from abstainer to heavy social drinker."

King and her colleagues examined 78 study participants (43 men, 35 women) drawn from a larger study looking at the effectiveness of on . Of the 78, 34 were randomly assigned to receive naltrexone; 44 received a placebo. Dosage at 25 mg daily began three days prior to the quit date, and then continued at 50 mg daily for eight weeks. Drinking and liver enzyme levels were monitored, and all participants received patches (to ease withdrawal symptoms) and behavioral counseling for up to four weeks following the quit date.

"Naltrexone, at 50 mg oral daily, when added to counseling and patch, significantly decreased heavy drinking rates in smokers enrolled in smoking cessation," said King. "Persons with the heaviest drinking patterns appeared to benefit the most from naltrexone, in terms of alcohol and smoking outcomes; it also increased their quit rates more so than in lighter drinkers."

King noted that that these results are likely based on the strong inter-connections between drinking and smoking for many individuals.

"Both nicotine and alcohol may stimulate brain reward pathways connected to endogenous opioids - meaning the 'endorphins' which are feel-good brain chemicals - as well as dopamine," she said. "An opioid blocker like naltrexone therefore may benefit persons who use both substances concurrently." She and her research team are trying to replicate these findings with a larger group of participants.

"If we do support these findings with a larger sample, then use of naltrexone could be expanded to drinkers-smokers who are trying to ," she said. "While quitting smoking is difficult for many, it may be especially hard for smokers who also drink alcohol, because the two are often used together, and drinking can dose-dependently trigger smoking urges and behavior. A medication like naltrexone, in addition to a standard quality smoking cessation program, may help this hard-to-treat subgroup of smokers who face additive health consequences from the co-use of these substances. This is significant also because naltrexone is well tolerated and safe."

Until then, she advised individuals who are trying to quit smoking to create a clear plan of action. "Stick with your plan, and learn from your mistakes, and try again if not successful. For some, it takes several attempts before being successful. FDA-approved medications and either group or individual counselling improve one's chances substantially. Tobacco is the number one modifiable health problem of our time. Persons with alcohol problems who also smoke are at more risk of dying prematurely from tobacco-related causes than they are of alcohol-related causes."

Source: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.