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Alcoholic Cure??

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008 Alcoholic Cure??

A famous French cardiologist Dr Olivier Ameisen 55 has sparked a new debate within the medical field with regards to claiming to find a cure for alcoholism. His assertion is based on the idea that he has overcome his own addiction to alcohol by self-administering doses of a muscle-relaxant called baclofen. With reference to a BBC report (06 12 08).

However this is not the only recent claim for a wonder drug. Back in May 06 another drug was heralded as a cure for alcoholism. Moreover this was a drug that was used in relation to drug addiction and was also found to be effective in the treatment of alcoholism.

Naltrexone, which blocks craving, and intensive counselling had the best results, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported. The problem most significantly was that only 10% of people dependent on alcohol sought treatment. In terms of measuring effectiveness then becomes questionable.

Moving on and critically evaluating this new wonder drug baclofen. Dr Ameisen has called for clinical trials in order to back the theory that baclofen suppresses the craving for drink. More notably, intense media coverage of his book Le Dernier Verre (The Last Glass) has led to a charge in demand from alcoholics for similar treatment, and some doctors have reported unexpected successes after prescribing it.

One seriously has to consider that this drug is not licensed for the purpose of alcohol treatment, therefore an element of caution has to be adhered to. There may be significant flaws that have as of yet been identified. An overview into Dr Ameisen would now be pertinent. He was associate professor of cardiology at New York’s Cornell University, and in 1994 he opened a profitable private practice in Manhattan. But, stricken by an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy - he says he felt like “an impostor waiting to be unmasked” - he found relief in large quantities of whisky and gin.

He says “I detested the taste of alcohol. But I needed its effects to exist in society,” he says in Le Dernier Verre, which comes out in English next month. Having tried various methods of approach in treating his own alcoholism including 9 months in different clinics, all to no avail, he had become desperate for himself and his patients. Quitting the sphere he was in and returning to Paris he carried out his own research and came by an article by an American man who was treated with baclofen for muscle spasms and found that it eased his addiction to cocaine.

Notwithstanding, further investigation revealed that the drug has worked on rats in cutting addiction to alcohol or cocaine. Furthermore Dr Ameisen also identified that baclofen was not known to specailists in terms of dependence. To some extent he became his own guinea-pig treating himself and self administering daily doses of 5 milligrams of the drug in 2002.

He states, “The first effects were a magical muscular relaxation and baby-like sleep,” he says. Almost immediately he also detected a lessening in his desire for drink.

Gradually, he increased the daily dosage to a maximum of 270mg, and found that he was “cured”. Today he continues to take 30 to 50mg a day.

“Mine is the first case in which a course of medicine has completely suppressed alcohol addiction,” he says.

“Now I can have a glass and it has no effect. Above all, I no longer have that irrepressible need to drink.”

As indicated earlier baclofen is not licensed and medical advice will always be the first port of call. As with the 2006 report naltrexone was used in combination with counselling, Baclofen is not therefore it is a singular treatment. Alarmingly, some doctors are prescribing this unauthorised drug as a direct treatment to alcoholism. One says “I prescribed it to two alcoholics who were really at the end of the road. To be honest, it was pretty miraculous,” says Dr Renaud de Beaurepaire of the Paul-Guiraud hospital at Villejuif near Paris.

In Geneva, Dr Pascal Garche put 12 patients on baclofen, of whom seven came through reporting marked improvements.

“I have never had reactions like this before. We cannot ignore findings such as this - the book is going to set the cat among the pigeons,” he said.

One point to acknowledge is that for some alcoholics this drug is offering hope. Thus all that is required is concise, productive research to evaluate the merits of baclofen.

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