Varenicline is already sold as a stop-smoking drug under the name Chantix, but now researchers say the drug also may help heavy drinkers cut down on their alcohol consumption, Medical News Today reported March 3.
Yale School of Medicine researchers found that heavy-drinking smokers given varenicline were less likely to drink than those given a placebo, and also reported feeling fewer cravings for alcohol and less of a feeling of intoxication when they did drink. They also were more likely to decline when offered a drink than those in the placebo group.
The study found that 80 percent of the varenicline group did not drink at all during the research period, compared to 30 percent of the placebo group.
Researchers noted that combining varenicline with alcohol did not produce any major side-effects, which could make it a safer alternative to naltrexone, which is metabolized by the liver.
“We anticipate that the results of this preliminary study will trigger clinical trials of varenicline as a primary treatment for alcohol use disorders, and as a potential dual treatment for alcohol and tobacco use disorders,” said researcher Sherry McKee.
The study was published online in the journal Biological Psychiatry.