New pill could halve alcohol intake

Scientists have developed a new pill which could stop people drinking so much

Scientists have unveiled a new drug that could radically aid the treatment of alcohol dependence.

Unlike previous medicines that cause the user to become ill when drinking alcohol, Nalmefene works by blocking the mechanisms in the brain that give pleasure from drinking.

Although it is yet to be licensed, clinical trials by developers Lundbeck have so far shown that subjects reduced their alcohol intake by more than half while taking the drug alongside counselling.

‘Reducing alcohol consumption to safer levels can be a realistic and practical treatment goal for people who are dependent on alcohol,’ says Dr David Collier of Barts and the London School of Medicine, Queen Mary University of London.

‘Abstinenceis the right option for many people, but not everyone wants to do that, and in those that do try, it helps only about half of them.’

The drug will only be taken when addicts are in a position to be tempted, and will offer a combination of medication and counselling to the 1.6 million alcoholics who are currently not receiving treatment.

Government guidelines say that in order to avoid health risks, women should not drink more than two to three unitsof alcohol per day, while for men the limit is three to four

Andrew Langford, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust says: ‘Many feel that they need to drink just to feel normal, increasing potential negative effects on their physical and emotional health.’

The results of the trials, presented at the European Psychiatric Association congress in Prague, found that over six months the average amount of alcohol consumed per day was reduced from the equivalent of a bottle of wine to the same amount as a large glass.

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