A new paper appraises promising strategies for the treatment of drug addiction in general. The authors consider agents which target GABA transmission, ion-channels and the emerging technique of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). In their elegant review of the field, perhaps the most noteworthy findings involve the treatment of alcohol dependence with either baclofen or topiramate.
Baclofen is a GABA-b agonist, which has been used in neurology for years. Several open-label studies, and 2 out of 3 randomised controlled trials (RCTs) have suggested that baclofen is effective in alcohol dependence by reducing cravings and promoting abstinence. Baclofen is safe (even in subjects with liver cirrhosis) and is generally well tolerated with sedation being the most notable side-effect. Higher doses of baclofen appear to be more effective, but this needs confirmation in further RCTs.
Topiramate enhances inhibitory and dampens excitatory currents in neurons, and has been used as an anticonvulsant for years. In 2 relatively large RCTs, topiramate was effective in alcohol dependence, by reducing cravings and the severity of dependence, and improving physical and psychosocial outcomes. Topiramate is generally well tolerated, although cognitive side effects can occur, and it should be avoided in pregnancy.
The full paper can be read here.