Drug eases recovery for those with severe alcohol withdrawal

November 19, 2020

New Haven, Conn. -- A drug once used to treat high blood pressure can help alcoholics with withdrawal symptoms reduce or eliminate their drinking, Yale University researchers report Nov. 19 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

In a double-blind study, researchers gave the drug prazosin or a placebo to 100 people entering outpatient treatment after being diagnosed with alcohol use disorder. All of the patients had experienced varying degrees of withdrawal symptoms prior to entering treatment.

According to the researchers, subjects with more severe symptoms -- including shakes, heightened cravings and anxiety, and difficulty sleeping -- who received prazosin significantly reduced the number of heavy drinking episodes and days they drank compared to those who received a placebo. The drug had little effect on those with few or no withdrawal symptoms.

"There has been no treatment readily available for people who experience severe withdrawal symptoms and these are the people at highest risk of relapse and are most likely to end up in hospital emergency rooms," said corresponding author Rajita Sinha, the Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry, a professor of neuroscience, and director of the Yale Stress Center.

Prazosin was originally developed to treat high blood pressure and is still used to treat prostate problems in men, among other conditions. Previous studies conducted at Yale have shown that the drug works on stress centers in the brain and helps to improve working memory and curb anxiety and craving.

Sinha's lab has shown that stress centers of the brain are severely disrupted early in recovery, especially for those with withdrawal symptoms and high cravings, but that the disruption decreases the longer the person maintains sobriety. Prazosin could help bridge that gap by moderating cravings and withdrawal symptoms earlier in recovery and increasing the chances that patients refrain from drinking, she said.

One drawback is that in its current form prazosin needs to be administered three times daily to be effective, Sinha noted.
-end-
The study was conducted at the Yale Stress Center and the Connecticut Mental Health Center's Clinical Neuroscience Research Unit. It was supported by the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse at the National Institutes of Health and the Connecticut State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Contact: Donald Palumbo, donald.palumbo@yale.edu and Bess Connolly, elizabeth.connolly@yale.edu

Yale University

Related Alcohol Articles from Brightsurf:

Alcohol use changed right after COVID-19 lockdown
One in four adults reported a change in alcohol use almost immediately after stay-at-home orders were issued: 14% reported drinking more alcohol and reported higher levels of stress and anxiety than those who did not drink and those whose use stayed the same.

Changes in hospitalizations for alcohol use disorder in US
Changes over nearly two decades in the rate of hospitalizations and in-hospital deaths from alcohol use disorder in the US were examined in this study.

Associations of alcohol consumption, alcohol-induced passing out with risk of dementia
The risk of future dementia associated with overall alcohol consumption and alcohol-induced loss of consciousness in a population of current drinkers was examined in this observational study with more than 131,000 adults.

New alcohol genes uncovered
Do you have what is known as problematic alcohol use?

Does estrogen influence alcohol use disorder?
A new study from researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago shows that high estrogen levels may make alcohol more rewarding to female mice.

Sobering new data on drinking and driving: 15% of US alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities involve alcohol under the legal limit
A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier, found that motor vehicle crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) below the legal limit of 0.08 percent accounted for 15% of alcohol-involved crash deaths in the United States.

Alcohol-induced deaths in US
National vital statistics data from 2000 to 2016 were used to examine how rates of alcohol-induced deaths (defined as those deaths due to alcohol consumption that could be avoided if alcohol weren't involved) have changed in the US and to compare the results by demographic groups including sex, race/ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status and geographic location.

Cuts in alcohol duty linked to 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England
Government cuts to alcohol taxes have had dramatic consequences for public health, including nearly 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England since 2012, according to new research from the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR).

Integrated stepped alcohol treatment for people in HIV care improves both HIV & alcohol outcomes
Increasing the intensity of treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD) over time improves alcohol-related outcomes among people with HIV, according to new clinical research supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The Lancet:Targets to reduce harmful alcohol use are likely to be missed as global alcohol intake increases
Increasing rates of alcohol use suggest that the world is not on track to achieve targets against harmful alcohol use, according to a study of 189 countries' alcohol intake between 1990-2017 and estimated intake up to 2030, published in The Lancet.

Read More: Alcohol News and Alcohol Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.