Taking the Fun Out of Drinking

Naltrexone is a alcohol downer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Naltrexone’s success in treating alcoholisim lies in its ability to block the feelings of euphoria alcohol provides to a significant number of alcoholics.

Marco Leyton, William Dawson Chair in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University and author of this study, found naltrexone, the alcoholic dependence drug approved for use by the FDA  in 1995, seems to be most effective in 2 groups.

The first group includes all women. The second group includes all men who have a variant of the gene OPRM1.

Alcoholic men who do not have this variant of the OPRM1 gene do not receive the same therapeutic outcomes as the other two groups of patients.

"A genetic propensity towards alcoholism indicates a greater success quitting with the help of naltrexone."

Over six days, Leyton and his colleagues gave either Naltrexone or a placebo to a group of 40 adult men and women. On day 1 subjects received 25 mg of naltrexone.

If the subjects successfully took that dose, they were bumped up to 50 mg per day for the next 5 days. All of the participants but one were genotyped for the polymorphism of the OPRM1 gene.

At the end of the six day study, participants received a single dose of their preferred alcoholic beverage, followed by an opportunity to work for additional alcohol servings. Naltrexone is an opioid receptor antagonist.

This property takes the euphoria experienced by many drinkers away. Since the euphoria is taken away, patients are more receptive to therapies provided by Alcoholics Anonymous and other support groups.

As expected, the study found the medication decreased alcohol euphoria most clearly in two groups: women, and men with the OPRM1 gene variant.

These results will allow doctors to genotype before prescribing naltrexone to men and only recommend the drug to men having the identified polymorphism of the OPRM1 gene.

Researchers are optimistic these findings will enable personalized treatment options for those with alcohol dependence.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 27, 2011
Last Updated:
April 7, 2011