Gabapentin is a pharmaceutical drug mainly used to treat epilepsy, a brain disorder that causes seizures. The drug has also proven effective for people working through alcoholism.
New studies have shown that gabapentin stops cravings for alcohol. The way the drug’s chemicals alter the brain works well in keeping alcohol-dependent people from drinking. More specifically, gabapentin, also called neurontin, works by stabilizing electrical activity in the brain.
The drug’s creators believe the chemical composition of gabapentin works by binding to calcium channels found on nerve cells within the brain and spinal cord. The nerve cells are then altered, and subsequently release neurotransmitters differently.
Neurotransmitters are essentially messages that get sent between various parts of the brain. They are naturally occurring, and are stored in nerve cells. Common neurotransmitters are serotonin, which, when released, increases happiness, decreases pain, and alerts the person to fullness while eating; dopamine, which increases alertness and happiness, and decreases hunger; and norepinephrine, which increases heart rate, alertness, and happiness, and decreases pain and blood circulation.
Gabapentin And Neurotransmitter
Gabapentin slows down the release of the neurotransmitter called glutamate, which regulates excitement throughout the body, but is also used to make protein, used to regulate brain development, and used to determine cellular survival.
Glutamate is a naturally-occurring neurotransmitter in the human brain, but has also been created as a food additive. Are you familiar with MSG, or monosodium glutamate? Chinese food is said to contain high levels of MSG that cause you to feel full after eating, but then leaves you feeling hungry not long afterwards.
Glutamate levels are altered by gabapentin, which have been found to help those addicted to alcohol.
The Study: Gabapentin for Alcohol Dependency
The team at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California created a trial study to test the effects of gabapentin the epilepsy drug on alcoholism. The study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Alcoholism, divided participants into three groups: those given a lower dose of gabapentin (900 milligrams), those given a higher dose (1,200 milligrams), and those given a placebo containing 0 milligrams of gabapentin. Each group received a daily dose for 12 weeks.
Results of the study show that those taking the highest dose of gabapentin were twice as likely to refrain from heavy drinking, and four times as likely to stop drinking alcohol altogether. the lower dose of gabapentin did not yield the same changes in the alcohol-dependent subjects as the higher dose when compared to the placebo group.
The study’s results were published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal and offer substance abuse professionals an alternative to medications that create riskier side effects. When helping someone recover from addiction to alcohol or other drugs, medications are helpful, so if gabapentin reduces physical and psychological cravings for alcohol, the use of the medication could help the estimated 18 million United States citizens who currently struggle with an alcohol abuse disorder.
Various treatment centers already use gabapentin for clients with alcohol dependency, so with further studies and information on the long-term impact of gabapentin for alcoholism, clients can be best treated through every step of recovery from alcohol addiction..