Results from a randomized, controlled clinical trial of gabapentin demonstrate that the drug may be effective in the treatment of alcohol dependence. 

Scientists conducting the study, supported by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, determined that alcohol dependent patients using gabapentin were more likely to stop drinking or refrain from heavy drinking than those taking placebo. 

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Gabapentin is the active ingredient in a number of prescription medications indicated for epilepsy, restless legs syndrome, and neuropathic pain.

Alcohol dependent patients were randomized to receive a moderate (900mg) or high dose (1,800mg) of gabapentin or a placebo. 

Over the 12-week treatment, patients receiving the 1,800mg dose were twice as likely to refrain from heavy drinking (45% vs. 23%) and four times as likely to stop drinking altogether (17% vs. 4%), compared to placebo. Participants receiving gabapentin also reported improved sleep and mood and fewer alcohol cravings.

Participants who received the 900mg dose of gabapentin saw similar but less dramatic improvements in their drinking levels, sleep, mood, and cravings when compared to the 1,800mg dose.

Alcohol use disorders affect about 18 million people in the U.S. Currently, only three medications are approved by the FDA for treating alcohol dependence: disulfram, an older drug that blocks the metabolism of alcohol and causes nausea; acamprosate, which helps support abstinence and can ease symptoms of withdrawal; and naltrexone, which can help people reduce heavy drinking.

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