Alcoholism Pill Can Improve Quality of Life
> 6/25/2008 9:22:15 AM

Alcoholism is an incredibly difficult pattern to break out of without help. Therapy has been the traditional treatment, and more recently medication has also shown some promise. Topiramate pills, which were originally created to control seizures, have demonstrated the ability to reduce cravings, but there has not been a thorough analysis of what practical benefit this has for patients until a study by Dr. Bankole Johnson appeared in the June issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Dr. Johnson divided a group of 371 alcohol-dependent patients into a placebo and a topiramate group. After 14 weeks, the subjects were brought back in and given an extensive battery of physical and mental evaluations. The topiramate group reported a significant reduction in cravings and general thoughts about alcohol, but this was expected. On the negative side, they were more likely to suffer side-effects like impaired concentration, numbness, taste perversion, and eating disorders.

For these side-effects to be worth it, there would have to be weighty advantages for users, and Dr. Johnson did indeed find great physical and mental benefits. The topiramate group had lower body mass indexes, liver enzyme levels, cholesterol levels, and blood-pressures. An improvement in any one of these measurements has the strong potential to extend life and protect against debilitating disease. In addition, mental evaluations found that the topiramate group had greater senses of well-being on average despite troubling side-effects.

The side-effects of topiramate are not negligible, but this study suggests that there are enough concrete benefits to make medication a treatment worth consideration. It is important to remember though that, as with almost all other medications, alcoholism medication should be taken in conjunction with therapy to ensure the maximum efficacy and safety. Kicking the habit is a serious challenge, and every aid, from social support to medication, should be utilized if it can help bring a person through to good health.

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