Fighting alcoholism may have just gotten a whole lot easier.
Scientists have developed a pill that is believed to reduce alcoholics' desire to drink, bringing new hope to those battling addiction.
According to the European Psychiatric Association, which led research on the drug, Nalmefene blocks mechanisms in the brain that give addicts pleasure when they drink, the UK Telegraph reported.
During a six-month trial, 604 patients in five European countries, decreased their alcohol consumption by more than half, from 84g to 30g per day—the equivalent of a bottle of wine reduced to one big glass—while taking the pill and undergoing counseling.
Developed by Lundbeck pharmaceutical company, nalmefene is currently in the clinical-trial stage and not yet licensed.
Nalmefene is the first pill with the goal of reducing the amount of alcohol consumed without making the patient ill if they do drink. It shies away from the abstinence that Alcoholics Anonymous and other treatment programs believe is necessary.
Dr. David Collier, of Barts and The London School of Medicine, Queen Mary University of London and an investigator who worked in a nalmefene study, told the Telegraph that most of the people volunteering in these trials had serious problems with alcohol dependency.
“From our experience in these trials, reducing alcohol consumption to safer levels can be a realistic and practical treatment goal for people who are dependent on alcohol, that can bring many short- and longer-term benefits to health,” Collier told the Telegraph.
“These trial results suggest that the combination of medication and counseling could offer a new option for people in the UK not currently treated for their alcohol dependence,” Collier also told the Telegraph.
The side effects of nalmefene include dizziness, nausea, fatigue, sleep disorder, vomiting, and cold-like symptoms.
In the U.S., 17.6 million people – about one in every 12 adults – abuse alcohol or are alcohol dependent, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.