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Recovery in alcoholics with withdrawal symptoms now possible with BP drug

New York – A study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, reveals that a drug once used to treat high blood pressure can now help alcoholics with withdrawal symptoms and reduce their drinking habits.
In the the research team gave the drug prazosin or a placebo to 100 people entering outpatient treatment after being diagnosed with alcohol use disorder. All of the patients had experienced varying degrees of withdrawal symptoms prior to entering treatment. Rajita Sinha from Yale University in the US says: “There has been no treatment readily available for people who experience severe withdrawal symptoms and these are the people at highest risk of relapse and are most likely to end up in hospital emergency rooms.”
According to the researchers, participants with more severe symptoms — including shakes, heightened cravings and anxiety, and difficulty sleeping — who received prazosin significantly reduced the number of heavy drinking episodes and days they drank compared to those who received a placebo.
The drug had little effect on those with few or no withdrawal symptoms. Prazosin was originally developed to treat high blood pressure and is still used to treat prostate problems in men, among other conditions. Previous studies conducted at Yale have shown that the drug works on stress centres in the brain and helps to improve working memory and curb anxiety and craving.
Sinha’s lab has shown that stress centres of the brain are severely disrupted early in recovery, especially for those with withdrawal symptoms and high cravings, but that the disruption decreases the longer the person maintains sobriety. Prazosin could help bridge that gap by moderating cravings and withdrawal symptoms earlier in recovery and increasing the chances that patients refrain from drinking, she said.

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