Anti-Convulsive Drug May Also Help Curb Heavy Drinking

By Paul Gaita 02/26/14

Topiramate has risen to the status of cure-all among scientists who have published papers on its effectiveness in treating cocaine dependance and as a weight loss tool.


Researchers have discovered that the drug topiramate, previously approved for treatment of seizure disorders and migraine prevention, may also prove beneficial in curbing issues of problem drinking among alcoholics.

The drug has assumed something of a cure-all status among members of the international scientific community, who have published studies which cite its effectiveness in not only aiding drinkers who seek to permanently curb their alcohol consumption, but also in the treatment of cocaine dependence and as a weight loss tool, though with significant side effects.

The most recent study was conducted by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. They observed a group of 138 heavy drinkers – that is to say, individuals who consumed five or more drinks on one or more occasions over the course of a 30-day period – and gave half of the study group topiramate on a daily basis for 12 weeks, while the other half received a placebo. Both groups were also given counseling to reduce drinking.

Results showed that the patients who received the topiramate had not only fewer days of heavy drinking, but also reported more days of total abstinence than the placebo group. However, additional studies revealed that the drug proved most effective among European-Americans, whose genetic makeup included a receptor for glutamate, an amino acid neurotransmitter. The study ultimately suggested that by targeting neurotransmitters and enzyme systems, future research may yield a target for future medications dedicated to reducing heavy drinking.

“This study represents an important next step in understanding and treating problem drinking,” said Dr. Henry R. Kranzler, director of Penn’s Center for Studies of Addiction and lead author on the study. “Our study is the first we are aware of in which topiramate was evaluated as an option for patients who want to limit their drinking to safe levels, rather than stop drinking altogether.”

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.