Is Bacolofen Effective for Alcoholism and Cravings?
Alcoholism ranks in the top five most common diseases within the United States and across the world. This disease takes a considerable toll on individuals, families and communities.
Mounting economic costs are associated with combating its effects as a whole. For these reasons, medical researchers are constantly on the lookout for new medication treatments to help those who struggle with alcoholism to regain control of their lives. Baclofen is one of the many drugs currently under consideration as a treatment for alcoholism. While not all treatments will work for every person, baclofen may offer some benefits that other treatments do not.
Baclofen’s Effects on Physical Cravings
Anyone who has battled with alcoholism knows how the physical cravings make it all the more difficult to abstain from drinking. Fatigue, tremors, and feeling jittery and anxious are just some of the cravings experienced; all of these symptoms tend to get worse the longer you go without a drink.
Baclofen’s ability to relieve muscle spasticity is part of the reason why it can affect the cravings associated with alcohol dependence. Muscle spasms occur when some form of nerve damage exists or the nerves are malfunctioning for one reason or another. Likewise, the cravings you experience also result from the effects ongoing alcohol use has on your nervous system. Baclofen helps to relax the areas of the nervous system affected by the damaging effects of alcohol.
Possible Side Effects of Baclofen
Few if any drug treatments come without side effects no matter how effective they are. Baclofen is no exception. Some of the known side effects associated with baclofen include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle weakness
Effects on Brain Cravings
Brain chemicals – also known as neurotransmitters – regulate most of what goes on in the body and play a key role in managing the cravings that occur when someone abstains from using alcohol. In effect, the brain experiences cravings much like the body does when alcohol is withheld.
Baclofen’s effects on chemical processes in the brain may be able to help relieve some of the physical cravings associated with alcoholism. According to Brown University’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Baclofen helps the brain secrete GABA, a neurotransmitter known for its calming effects on the brain and the body. This calming effect helps to relax the nervous system and relieve some of the discomfort associated with physical cravings for alcohol.
Baclofen also reduces the amount of dopamine – another neurotransmitter – secreted in the brain. Dopamine is responsible for the “feel good” sensations that alcohol creates. By reducing these sensations, baclofen helps to decrease a person’s cravings for the “high” that comes with using.
Baclofen on a Case-by-Case Basis
While not yet approved in the United States as an effective treatment for alcoholism, as of 2012, France has given approval for the use of baclofen as a treatment on a case-by-case basis. According to an article in MedicalXpress, this approval was partly based on the results from a clinical trial where baclofen was tested on 132 trial participants, all of which suffered from alcohol dependency issues.
The trial participants received heavy doses of baclofen over the course of a year’s time. Results from the trial showed 80 percent of the participants reduced the amount of alcohol consumed to the point where they became moderate drinkers as opposed to heavy drinkers. Similar clinical trials involving naltrexone and acamprosate medication treatments only yielded a 25-percent success rate.
These results may indicate the importance of approaching each person’s individual situation with a fresh perspective, as studies do provide evidence that baclofen can relieve symptoms of alcoholism and its cravings for some people.