INTRODUCTION: Pregabalin is a new anxiolytic that selectively binds to the alpha2-delta subunit of voltage-gated calcium channels, inhibiting release of excessive levels of excitatory neurotransmitters. In this open-label trial we aimed to investigate the efficacy of pregabalin on alcoholism indices in detoxified alcohol-dependent subjects. Reduction of cravings, psychiatric symptom improvements, and the evaluation of safety parameters were the secondary endpoints. METHODS: Thirty-one alcohol-dependent patients were consecutively recruited and screened for the study. Twenty detoxified patients received pregabalin starting at 50 mg/day (orally) in the first week, gradually increasing to a flexible dose of 150-450 mg/day. Subjects were assessed at the beginning of the treatment, and after 2, 8 and 16 weeks. Craving (visual analogue scale, Obsessive and Compulsive Drinking Scale [OCDS]) and withdrawal (Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol [CIWA-Ar]) rating scales were applied; psychiatric symptoms were evaluated through the Symptom Check List-90-Revised (SCL-90-R). RESULTS: Out of the twenty patients who received the study drug, 15 completed the study procedures: 10 remained totally alcohol-free for the duration of the study, five relapsed. An additional four patients dropped out during the study, and one stopped taking medication due to adverse events. A significant progressive reduction of both craving and withdrawal symptomatology were observed. Safety parameters did not show any significant variation during treatment. CONCLUSION: Pregabalin shows promise as a treatment for alcohol dependence. Although limited by a low number of participants and by the open design, this is the first study concerning the efficacy and safety of pregabalin in current alcoholics. In these patients pregabalin was effective and well tolerated. Additional research is needed to explore the clinical relevance of these findings.
- alcohol dependence
- calcium channels