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Friday, January 21, 2011

Anti-Nausea Medication and Addiction

A drug that has been used for helping fight nausea with chemotherapy patients may also help alcoholics curb their drinking. In the near future we may see the medication ondansetron (Zofran), being used by therapists and counselors to help some alcoholics become abstinent. A study led by Bankole A. Johnson, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia, published Wednesday in the American Journal of Psychiatry, deals with research on a gene known as 5-HTT, this gene plays an important role in the serotonin system of the brain. Variations 5-HTT can increase one's risk of a number of psychiatric disorders:
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • addiction
How can an anti-nausea medication help alcoholics cut back on drinking? Ondansetron is in a class of medications that work by blocking serotonin, researchers believe that in certain variations of 5-HTT this drug may block this neurotransmitter and reduce the amount of one's drinking. This drug would only help patients who have a very specific variation of 5-HTT, and this would in no way be a cure for alcoholism, but, it may aid in one's ability to detox. "Among the patients who received ondansetron, those with the LL genotype or another variant called LL/TT cut back on their drinking enough to move out of the "high-risk" category of drinkers. But the drug did not seem to help patients who had other forms of the 5-HTT genotype".

Science is changing how addiction may be treated in the future, understanding one's genetic makeup may be crucial to how people receive treatment on an individual level. "Genotyping is becoming more common place and inexpensive," Johnson said, opening the door to tailoring addiction treatment based on an individual's genes. Obviously, these are uncharted waters and will probably be a long time before any of this is put into practice, but, this is all part of the evolution of addiction treatment.

LA Times

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