Naltrexone (Revia), one of the only medications approved for treating people with alcohol abuse problems, might only be effective in women and those with a specific genetic variation, a new study has found.
Researchers from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre and McGill University conducted the study.
"Our results suggest that we might now be able to predict beforehand who will benefit most," said Marco Leyton, lead investigator of the study.
"We were quite excited to find that our results supported that naltrexone was specifically effective in women and in people who carried a gene related to the brain's natural morphine system called the mu opioid receptor gene (OPRM1)," he said.
For the study, researchers followed a small group of "social drinkers" in an effort to validate some very preliminary hints that the efficacy of the treatment might be related to gender and a particular gene that may be inherited.
Researchers and clinicians might be able to determine who might best respond to this treatment, before it was administrated.
Alcohol stimulates the release of the brain's natural opioids, which conveys a feeling of euphoria in individuals when drinking alcohol. There seem to be individual differences in the magnitude of that effect as well as in the sensitivity of the receptors to those natural opioids.
"In other words, an opioid receptor blocker, such as naltrexone, might be an effective treatment for people with alcohol problems by decreasing the euphoria of drinking," explained Elaine Setiawan, first author of the study.
The study will be published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.