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Epilepsy drug may help alcoholics recover from dependence, small study suggests
Date:8/3/2008

of U-M Addiction Treatment Services and a professor of psychiatry at the U-M Medical School. "In other words, gabapentin prevented and delayed relapse. Meanwhile, patients reported sleeping better in both the treatment and placebo groups, which may be due to the gabapentin in the first group and the resumption of drinking in the other."

Co-author Flavia Consens, M.D., an associate professor of neurology and member of the U-M Sleep Disorders Center, is cautiously optimistic that the new findings could open the door to better understanding of how to handle sleep problems in people who are trying to recover from their dependence on alcohol. As many as 70 percent of people with alcohol problems suffer insomnia, she says, while others cope with other sleep disturbances including breathing problems known as sleep apnea.

Nearly 14 million Americans meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse or alcoholism. Alcohol problems, alone or in combination with illicit drug problems, account for 40 percent of admissions to addiction treatment programs each year, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

"There may be some underlying chemical changes in the brain that prompt alcoholics to report more insomnia as a co-existing condition than non-alcoholics," she says. "A possible explanation of these new findings is that the gabapentin might decrease the insomnia initially, and the patient may not need or crave alcohol as a treatment for the insomnia. We're also looking into other factors that may have an effect on the neurochemistry of the brain, and see how they could impact recovery and sleep."

The researchers caution that they did not observe differences in brain wave data collected during sleep studies conducted before and after patients received gabapentin. Neither did the drug appear to have a greater benefit for insomnia than placebo during the first 6 weeks of receiving study medication. Si
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Contact: Kara Gavin
kegavin@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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