New research suggests that an anti-nausea drug approved for fighting the effects of chemotherapy may help some alcoholics — particularly those with a certain genetic variation — cut back on their drinking, The L.A. Times reported Jan. 21.
Researchers randomized 283 adults dependent on alcohol in an 11-week controlled, double-blind experimental trial. All participants received cognitive-behavioral therapy and either a placebo or a medication, ondansetron (Zofran), twice a day.
Those with a specific genotype know as 5-HTT LL who were given ondansetron drank on average 1.62 fewer drinks per day and spent 11.27 percent more days abstinent than those with the same genotype who got the placebo. Subjects with other forms of the 5-HTT genotype did not appear to benefit.
The 5-HTT gene plays a role in the brain’s serotonin system. Some variations of it can, according to the L.A. Times, “increase the risk of psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction.”
Ondasetron works by blocking serotonin.
The study, “Pharmacogenetic Approach at the Serotonin Transporter Gene as a Method of Reducing the Severity of Alcohol Drinking,” appeared in the American Journal of Psychiatry on Jan. 19, 2011.
The research was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health.