Anti-Smoking Pill May Work on Booze, Too

Drug that targets brain's pleasure center shows promise in tests
By M. Morris,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 10, 2007 5:56 PM CDT
Cigarette butts join other trash and seagrass that are washed up on the shore on the beach Wednesday, June 6, 2007 on Virginia Key in Miami. Smokers are littering shorelines and waterways worldwide with...   (Associated Press)
camera-icon View 4 more images

(Newser) – A pill that helps smokers quit also shows promise in combating alcoholism, and future uses may include treatment for other addictions and even Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Varenicline acts on brain receptors that bind with nicotine, blunting its effects by inhibiting the release of dopamine, a so-called pleasure hormone. Alcohol affects the same receptors.

Lab rats trained to drink heavily, then dosed with varenicline, drank less; after researchers stopped giving them the drug, they continued to drink but didn't binge. A researcher not connected with the study told the AP using the drug to treat alcoholism is a "no-brainer"; the fact that it's already FDA approved makes human testing easier. (Read more varenicline stories.)