Topiramate: A Clinical Trial for Alcoholism

Total Running Time: 9:23 min.

An estimated 17 million Americans suffer from alcohol- use disorders, but only 13% are being treated with medication proven to be effective. While there are three approved medications currently available in the U.S. - disulfiram (brand name: Antabuse), acamprosate (Campral) and naltrexone (Revia) - a new medication called topiramate is currently being tested at the CARE Clinic in Charlottesville, VA. This segment focuses on two test subjects who have turned to the drug as a way to combat chronic alcoholism. One is Tom, a "functional drunk" who drank morning, noon and night when he retired. Now, "My drinking's killing me, and I desperately need help." The other is Adam, who "went crazy" in college, and has put his music career on hold as he plunges deeper into solitary beer binges at home. For 12 weeks, Tom and Adam both take topiramate, which may correct imbalances in several brain systems, thereby reducing the urge to drink. The results are promising: six weeks into the study: Tom doesn't want a drink, and Adam's drinking has decreased appreciably. After ten weeks, the improvement continues. Says a grateful Tom, "It's too bad I didn't come to this realization a long time ago. I can't change that, but I can determine what's going to happen tomorrow." As for Adam, he's returned to writing music, and recently decided to stop drinking altogether. Although these results are encouraging, Dr. Mark Willenbring cautions that "One of the things that's most important for people to understand here is that the medicines won't do the work for you. You've got to work at this."