New Research Shows Heart Medication May Be Used To Treat Alcohol Use Disorder

A heart medication known as spironolactone may aid in the treatment of alcohol addiction, adding to a short list of other drugs used for alcohol use disorder.

Treating Alcohol Use Disorder With Heart Medication

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), roughly one in 20 people will develop alcohol use disorder, and fewer than 10% will get any type of treatment.

A new study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that spironolactone, a drug for heart problems and high blood pressure, may be effective in treating alcohol addiction.

Along with medication-assisted treatment (MAT), other effective treatment options for alcohol abuse include detoxification, support groups, and behavioral therapy.

What Is Spironolactone?

Spironolactone is a potassium-sparing diuretic (water pill). It stops potassium levels from getting too low by preventing the body from absorbing too much salt.

Historically, spironolactone has been used to treat people with low potassium levels, heart failure, high blood pressure, and edema (fluid retention).

Spironolactone comes in tablet and liquid form to take by mouth once or twice a day. Side effects of spironolactone may include vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, deepening of the voice, and more.

What The Spironolactone Study Means For Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

In the new study, researchers tested the effects of spironolactone in mice and rats, then examined the medical records of over 2 million people who drank alcohol to see if the drug reduced consumption.

Both rat and mouse studies concluded that alcohol consumption was reduced after spironolactone injections, and did not adversely affect food intake or impair coordination or movement.

The human study showed a decrease in self-reported alcohol use in the group that took spironolactone, particularly among those who reported binge drinking.

Researchers involved in the study agree that the finding is encouraging, but further controlled studies are needed to assess the drug’s safety.

If spironolactone were to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of alcohol abuse, it would become the fourth medication available to do so.

The Need For More Drugs To Treat Alcohol Addiction

There are currently only three drugs on the market that have been FDA-approved to treat alcohol use disorder.

Current drugs used in alcohol abuse treatment include:

  • naltrexone — which blocks receptors in the brain that play a role in alcohol cravings and the feelings of reward while drinking
  • acamprosate — which helps reduce cravings as well as painful alcohol withdrawal symptoms when a person stops drinking
  • disulfiram — which encourages abstinence from alcohol by causing nausea and other unpleasant symptoms when people drink

While these medications have been shown to be effective in some people, many professionals point out that they only offer modestly better outcomes than a placebo.

Spironolactone, if approved, could potentially fill the void of a more effective, well-tolerated drug to treat people battling alcohol dependence.

The Dangers Of Not Receiving Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Listed below are some of the short-term and long-term health risks of chronic alcohol abuse.

Dangers of alcohol addiction include:

Based on data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 140,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually in the United States.

These troubling statistics show that alcohol is the fourth-leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., emphasizing the dangers of not getting adequate treatment for alcohol use disorder.

Other Effective Treatment Methods For Alcohol Use Disorder

There are currently a number of evidence-based treatments that have been shown to be effective for people facing alcohol addiction.

Treatment options may include:

  • medically monitored alcohol detox
  • dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders
  • psychiatric services
  • peer support groups and 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous
  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • individual, group, or family therapy

If you or a loved one have an alcohol use disorder, attending an inpatient or outpatient alcohol rehab program can help you take the first step towards lasting sobriety.

Find An Addiction Treatment Program Today

Reach out to today for more information about substance use disorder treatment options.

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