There has been increasing interest in the use of anticonvulsant agents in the treatment of alcoholism. Anticonvulsant agents have mostly been evaluated as an alternative to benzodiazepines in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal. Among the advantages of using anticonvulsant agents in this capacity is their purported lack of interaction with alcohol (i.e., interactions that could increase psychomotor deficits, cognitive impairment, and increase intoxication). This is particularly important in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal and relapse prevention in outpatients. Unfortunately, these untoward clinical interactions between anticonvulsants and alcohol in alcoholic patients have not been thoroughly assessed. The current clinical laboratory study was conducted to evaluate the safety and tolerability of the anticonvulsant gabapentin in alcoholic subjects. In addition, the ability of gabapentin to reduce alcohol craving and consumption was evaluated.
Thirty-five non-treatment-seeking alcoholic subjects were enrolled in a subacute human laboratory study and received double-blind treatment with up to 1,200 mg of gabapentin (n=18) or placebo (n=17) for 8 days. The safety and tolerability of gabapentin were monitored in the natural environment during the first 5 days of medication treatment and during a free-choice limited access consumption paradigm following an initial drink of alcohol in a bar-lab setting on Day 7.
There was no overall effect of gabapentin on drinking or craving; however, it was tolerated (e.g., mood and sedation) as well as placebo over 5 days of natural drinking. During the bar-lab drinking session, there were no differences in subjective high or intoxication between subjects treated with gabapentin or placebo.
This study provides initial evidence that the anticonvulsant gabapentin is safe if used in conjunction with alcohol consumption in alcoholic individuals. Further study is needed with this and other lab models to determine the utility and safety of gabapentin in the treatment of alcoholism.