Smoking Cessation Drug May Also Reduce Drinking

Varenicline increases alcohol's aversive effects, including dysphoria and nausea

FRIDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- The smoking cessation drug varenicline (VAR) may also reduce alcohol consumption in social drinkers by increasing alcohol's aversive effects, according to a study published online Feb. 16 in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Emma Childs, Ph.D., of the University of Chicago, and colleagues investigated the effects of an acute dose of VAR upon subjective, psychological, and objective responses to alcohol in 15 healthy social drinkers. The drinkers participated in six randomized sessions: three each with 2-mg VAR and placebo, followed three hours later by a drink containing placebo, low-dose alcohol (0.4 g/kg), or high-dose alcohol (0.8 g/kg). Subjective mood and drug effects (stimulation, drug liking), physiological measures (heart rate, blood pressure), and eye tracking tasks were assessed periodically before and after drug and alcohol administration.

The researchers found that blood pressure, heart rate, ratings of dysphoria, and nausea were acutely increased by VAR, and it also improved eye tracking performance. After drinking alcohol, VAR increased dysphoria and tended to reduce alcohol liking ratings, while attenuating alcohol-induced eye-tracking impairments, compared with placebo. These findings were independent of the drug's effects on nausea before drinking.

"VAR may reduce alcohol drinking behaviors among light smokers by increasing the negative subjective effects of a low dose of alcohol, thus reducing the likelihood of a drinking episode becoming a binge," the authors write.

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