A recently approved anti-smoking medication could also serve to repress an alcoholic's desire for drink, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California-San Francisco.
Varenicline, manufactured by Pfizer and approved as a smoking cessation aid in the United States and Europe in 2006, has been shown to reduce nicotine consumption by affecting the brain's reward system for addictive substances.
The research team, noting that cigarettes and alcohol are often abused together, wanted to see if the drug had the same affect on drinking.
The researchers tested the impact of varenicline -- know by its trade names Chantix in the United States and Champix in Europe -- on laboratory rats which had consumed high amounts of ethanol over a long period.
Rats were trained to drink ethanol in consistent amounts over five months before they were given varenicline. After the drug was administered steadily, the rats consistently showed less interest in the ethanol.
The results suggested the drug helped in modulating the rats' desire to consume the ethanol or to enjoy its effects, the study said.
The scientists also found that, when the rats were later cut off from varenicline, they did not resume the intake of ethanol at previous levels.
"Chronic treatment with varenicline suppressed the ethanol consumption without any subsequent rebound increase in drinking," it said.
This finding "suggests that varenicline may serve as a therapeutic treatment to reduce alcohol consumption in alcoholic subjects."
The study was published in the newest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.