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Stop-Smoking Drug May Also Curb Problem Drinking
Date:2/15/2012

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- The quit-smoking drug Chantix may also help problem drinkers cut their alcohol consumption, a small new study suggests.

Exactly how this drug curbs drinking is not fully understood, but its use may increase blood pressure, heart rate and feelings of sadness and nausea, thereby blunting the pleasurable effects of alcohol, the researchers said.

"Chantix might reduce alcohol consumption by reducing overall enjoyment of the alcohol drinking experience," said study author Emma Childs, a research associate at the University of Chicago.

"Chantix increased the unpleasant effects of alcohol, for example feeling drowsy and irritable, [and] participants also reported that they didn't like the alcohol effects as much," Childs said.

Approved to help smokers quit in 2006, Chantix (varenicline) has its share of potential side effects. In July 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated that Chantix carry a "black box" warning about the potential risks of depression and suicidal thoughts. Recently, the drug was linked to a small but significant risk of heart attack and stroke among people with pre-existing heart disease. Chantix costs roughly $3 per pill.

The results of the new study were released online in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research prior to publication in the May print issue.

The study included 15 healthy participants who took part in six sessions. They received a 2-mg dose of Chantix and an inactive placebo, followed three hours later by a beverage containing either a placebo, a low dose of alcohol, or a high dose of alcohol.

Before and after the sessions, the researchers asked the participants about their mood, tested visual ability and measured physiological responses such as blood pressure and heart rate.

The participants found the Chantix-booze combination increased the unpleas
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