European researchers are testing a new drug called Nalmefene and finding it helpful in the treatment of alcoholics.
After performing several clinical trials and double-blind studies, these scientists have found that alcoholics can cut their drinking on average by more than 66% if they use the drug.
In one six-month experiment with 604 patients from five European countries, the average person in the group decreased their alcohol consumption by half, which was the equivalent of drinking only one large glass of wine instead of a full bottle per day. Another experiment found that those who took Nalmefene reduce their drinking by 64-79%, compared to 49-64% in the group that took placebos.
One problem with Nalmefene is that it has severe side effects, and some people had to stop using it in the course of the experiments. Side effects can include dizziness, insomnia, nausea, fatigue, vomiting, sleep disorders and symptoms similar to having a cold. In one six-month trial, fewer than half of the patients on the drug were able to complete the study.
Nalmefene is made by Lundbeck, a global pharmaceutical company specializing in disorders of the central nervous system and headquartered in Denmark. If approved by European authorities, Nalmefene would become the first new alcohol treatment drug in over 15 years . One advantage of the drug is that it would allow former alcoholics to drink in moderation. Disulfiram or Antabuse, a drug commonly used in the United States, makes people sick even if they drink alcohol in a very small amount. Other drugs approved for alcohol treatment in the USA are naltrexone (Vivitrol) and acamprosate (Campral).
Alcoholism is considered the second largest risk factor for poor health in European countries. In the United States, almost 18 million adults, or one in every 12, has a problem with drinking or is an alcoholic, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.