Drug can curb both smoking and drinking

That roughly 60 percent of alcoholics smoke is not surprising, since scientists have shown that nicotine appears to enhance alcohol’s “buzz.” And while the harm that can be caused by abusing either drug is widely acknowledged, trying to quit using them has long proven an elusive challenge.

Now, it may be easier to fight both addictions at once. A new School of Medicine study has found that varenicline, a popular smoking cessation drug sold under the trade name Chantix, also dramatically reduces the amount of alcohol a heavy drinker will consume.

In an advance issue of Biological Psychiatry published online in February, first author Sherry McKee, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry, and colleagues report that, after taking varenicline in a laboratory setting, 80 percent of heavy-drinking smokers did not drink alcohol that was made available to them, compared to 30 percent of those who were given a placebo. At the doses studied, there were no adverse effects when varenicline was combined with alcohol.

“A medication such as varenicline, which may target shared biological systems in alcohol and nicotine abuse, holds promise as a treatment for individuals with both disorders,” says McKee.


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