Baclofen will not save you from binge drinking
A popular drug for alcohol addiction turned out to be ineffective
Natalia Pelezneva, Naked Science
Scientists from the University of Liverpool came to the conclusion: the muscle relaxant baclofen does not help to get rid of alcohol addiction. There are a number of studies of the drug, the authors of which speak of its high efficiency, which allows to overcome addiction in 80% of cases. However, a meta-analysis of 12 studies comparing the drug with the action of a placebo showed that baclofen does not eliminate cravings for alcohol and does not reduce the number of "binge" days. The study is published in the journal Addiction (Baclofen: its effectiveness in reducing harmful drinking, craving, and negative mood. A meta-analysis).
Baclofen is usually used to get rid of increased muscle tone (spasticity) in multiple sclerosis, strokes and other diseases. In the early 2010s, the drug gained popularity as a remedy for alcohol withdrawal syndrome (alcohol withdrawal syndrome) - a condition after prolonged alcohol consumption, characteristic of stages II and III of alcoholism. Proponents of such use of baclofen claimed that the drug reduces the craving for alcohol, reduces the amount of alcohol consumed and avoids the development of binge drinking. Since 2014, its use in alcohol addiction therapy has been officially allowed in France.
The authors of the new work analyzed all available randomized placebo-controlled studies of baclofen as a drug for alcoholism – a total of 12 such articles were found. Scientists evaluated what results the study participants achieved after a certain time after completing the course of the drug or placebo. The number of days when the participant drank alcohol and "sober" days were taken into account, as well as the abstinence index. This is the ratio of the number of those who took the drug and those who were able to give up alcohol after the course. Subjective assessments of alcohol cravings, anxiety and depression were also used – it is believed that these conditions can increase the risk.
Taking baclofen did not affect the number of "sober" days after completing the course. He also did not reduce the amount of alcohol consumed and did not reduce the subjective assessment of the degree of craving for alcohol and indicators of anxiety and symptoms of depression. Baclofen changed the abstinence index – six studies showed that those who took the drug were on average twice as likely to completely give up alcohol. However, these studies do not indicate what the mechanism of the drug is. The authors of the review believe that the results of some of these studies may be a coincidence: relatively few people participated in them.
According to the researchers, it is too early to use baclofen as a remedy for alcohol addiction – its effectiveness is comparable to placebo, and the drug itself is insufficiently studied.
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