In the first study, MUSC researchers along with a team from the University of Virginia Health System have found that topiramate, an effective therapeutic medication, not only decreases heavy drinking, but also cuts risk factors associated with heavy drinking.
The medication effectively lowers all liver enzymes, plasma cholesterol, body mass index (BMI), and systolic and diastolic blood pressure, thus reducing heart disease risk.
"These findings add growing data indicating that heavy drinkers who modify their drinking with the help of medication and supportive counseling may see an improvement in health and well-being, as well as a potential reduction of risk for the development of heart and liver diseases," said Raymond Anton, M.D., distinguished university professor.
"This shows that treatment of alcoholism has potential health benefits beyond the immediate behavioural and emotional improvement caused by a reduction in drinking," he added.
In addition to decreasing liver enzymes and cholesterol levels, topiramate can also cut fatty liver disease risk, which leads to cirrhosis - a common consequence to end-stage liver disease leading to death in some alcoholics.
Topiramate significantly contributed to a decline in obsessive thoughts and compulsions, components of alcohol craving, and also had a greater improvement in their "overall quality of life,"
Another study by Anton showed that PROMETA alcoholism treatment program, a combination of generic medications, led to significant reductions in cravings and alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
It promoted abstinence, and improved mood and sleep only in those who had symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
The results were presented at Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA) conference in Washington D.C.