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Topamax/Topiramate Treatment

According to Medical News Today, alcoholism and addiction are the fifth most common diseases in the world and the third most common diseases in the United States. In an effort to reduce these rates, medical researchers continue to look for ways to reduce or eliminate alcoholism and drug addiction problems.

Topamax (the brand name) and topiramate (its generic counterpart) produce certain key nervous system effects. Because of this, these drugs are currently being studied to better understand how they afffect alcoholism and drug addiction processes. Like most other medications, Topamax and topiramate have benefits and drawbacks that can vary depending on a person’s current health status. If you suffer from an addiction problem, you may want to look into ongoing developments involving Topamax and topiramate drug studies.

Treatment Using Topamax or Topirmate

Both Topamax and generic topiramate are prescription drugs commonly used to treat individuals who suffer from seizure disorders. They are also used to reduce or prevent migraine headaches in adults. As of yet, Topamax is not federally approved as a treatment for alcoholism or addicition, though current research studies do hold promise in terms of its effectiveness as a treatment. Topamax comes in tablet and capsule forms with dosages ranging from 15 to 200 milligrams.

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Once ingested, Topamax effects can last anywhere from 19 to 23 hours based on its half-life duration. Because of the chemical makeup of the drug, 50 to 80 percent of it is excreted through the urine in an unchanged form. This means no blood level monitoring tests are necessary as Topamax does not accumulate in the bloodstream. This drug does interact with several types of medications, so if you’re considering undergoing a Topamax drug trial, be sure to list any and all medications you’re currently taking.

Because of its effects on alcoholism and addiction, Topamax is also being considered as a treatment for nicotine and cocaine dependencies. Other research studies currently underway are examining Topamax’s effectiveness in treating mood disorders, essential tremors, diabetes and nerve pain disorders. Coincidently, each these conditions can also develop after years of alcohol use.

*The Effects of Topamax on Drinking Behaviors

The combined results from ongoing Topamax studies identify key areas where the drug can benefit people who suffer from alcoholism. Study participants reported improvement in the following key areas:

  • They experienced fewer days of heavy drinking.
  • They experienced more days where no alcohol was consumed at all.
  • They consumed fewer drinks per day.
  • Some who consumed fewer drinks per day were reclassified as “moderate” drinkers as opposed to “heavy” drinkers.

Treatment for Alcoholism

Alcohol dependency develops over time as the effects of ongoing alcohol use start to alter the brain’s normal chemical processes. Brain chemicals – also known as neurotransmitters – regulate different processes in the brain that affect emotions, reasoning abilities and motor functions. After years of ongoing alcohol use, the brain’s chemistry becomes dependent on alcohol’s effects. When this happens, the brain is unable to secrete normal levels of neurotransmitter chemicals. Glutamate, dopamine and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) are the neurotransmitter chemicals most affected by ongoing alcohol use.

After years of drinking, the brain secretes low levels of GABA and higher than normal levels of glutamate. Research trials conducted by the University of Texas in San Antonio show Topamax effects help to alter the brain’s neurotransmitter levels by increasing the amount of GABA secreted while decreasing dopamine and glutamate secretions.

Over time, Topamax’s effects on brain neurotransmiter levels resulted in a decrease in the number of heavy drinking days for those who participated in the research trial. Participants also craved alcohol less, which resulted in an increase in the number of days they were able to go without drinking.

*FDA-Approved Medication Treatments for Alcohol and Drug Dependence

FDA-approved treatments for alcoholism and drug addiction can vary considerably in terms of the benefits they provide. Some of the drugs currently in use include:

  • Opioids/ methadone, naltrexone and buprenorphine:  Used in the treatment of opiate addictions
  • Acomprosate:  Used to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Disulfiram:  Used as a negative reinforcement treatment for alcoholism
  • Naltrexone:  Used to reduce alcohol cravings

Treatment for Drug Addiction

Brain neurotransmitters (or chemicals) can either stimulate or slow brain activity. Those that stimulate brain activity are known as excitatory neurotransmitters, while those that slow activity are known as inhibitory transmitters. GABA secretions function as inhibitory neurotransmitters while dopamine and glutamate have excitatory effects. Much like alcoholism, ongoing drug use increases glutamate levels in the brain and decreases dopamine and GABA levels. Over time, GABA secretions become depleted when high levels of glutamate levels are present.

Research studies conducted by the University of Pennsylvania examined the effects of Topamax on trial participants who suffered from cocaine dependency. Ongoing cocaine use tends to increase glutamate levels in the brain and decrease GABA levels. The effects of Topamax or topiramate helped to restore brain chemical levels to normal by decreasing the amount of glutatmate secreted and increasing the amount of GABA secretions. After eight weeks, trial participants were able to abstain from cocaine usage with some participants able to go as long as three weeks without using.

Adverse Effects

Since Topamax and topiramate are currently used to treat seizure and migraine conditions, information regarding any adverse effects from using the drug are fairly well known. It’s used as an anti-convulsant or anti-seizure medication because of its effects on the body’s nerves or nervous system. So, anyone who takes Topamax or topiramate for alcoholism or addiction treatment may experience occassional numbess or tingling in the arm, hands, legs and feet.

Adverse effects may also take the form of impaired memory and concentration as Topamax does have a direct effect on the brain’s overall chemical process. The research trial conducted by the University of Texas showed participants also developed unusually high rates of kidney stones compared to rates found among the general public. Weight loss was another side effect from using the drug, which makes Topamax a candidate for future research studies on weight loss treatments.

Other possible adverse effects from Topamax or topiramate include:

  • Mood swings
  • Problems with coordination
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Pain in the back, muscles or bones

*Clinical Drug Trials

The U.S. National Institutes of Health Administration carries out ongoing clinical drug trials as part of their medical research program. Anyone interested in participating in a Topamax or topiramate trial can find information at the Clinical Trials website.

Clinical drug trials may involve answering health questionnaires, taking experimental treatments or participating in projects that use existing treatments in new ways.


If you’re struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, you may want to take certain precautions before participating in a Topamax drug trial as the drug tends to interact with a wide range of medications and physical conditions. Whether you’re taking prescription or nonprescription drugs, such as vitamins or nutritional supplements, Topamax’s effects on brain chemistry can affect how the body reacts to other drugs.

Some of the medications known to interact with Topamax and topiramate include:

  • Hormonal contraceptives
  • Anxiety medications
  • Lithium
  • Iron
  • Pain relievers
  • Sedatives

People with existing medical conditions may also experience unexpected effects when taking Topamax or topiramate. Any condition that affects the respiratory system, such as asthma or COPD, may worsen after taking the drug. Anyone with a type of bone disorder, such as osteoporosis or osteopenia, may also experience problems. Diabetes conditions can also be affected. As any neurotransmitter changes in the brain have the potential to alter the body’s hormonal systems, any contraceptive medications may become ineffective when taking Topamax or topiramate.

Topamax is also known for its ability to prevent the body from secreting sweat, which is the body’s way of regulating heat and temperature levels. This means anyone taking Topamax should drink lots of fluids and avoid prolonged exposures to heat.

It’s not uncommon for people suffering from alcohol or drug addictions to have other mental or psychological conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety-related conditions. As Topamax and topiramate affect the brain centers that regulate moods and emotions, anyone suffering from one of these conditions or anyone taking medication to treat a psychological condition should consult with their doctor before trying these drugs. This goes for any medications or conditions you may have.

If you suffer from addiction currently, it’s important to get into a treatment program as soon as possible. An ideal program will combine the use of medications with effective addiction counseling and complementary therapies. Contact us today for help finding such a program.

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