Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Topiramate for Alcohol Use Disorders

Topiramate is an anticonvulsant which has shown some promise for treating a variety of psychiatric problems, including alcohol use disorders, binge eating, compulsive behaviour, and mood instability.  

One recent study, by Knapp et al, published in the February 2015 edition of The Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, compared topiramate with several other medications, and with placebo, for treating 85 heavy drinkers ("heavy" meaning over 35 drinks per week, for men).  * The study duration was 12 weeks.  The target dose of topiramate was 300 mg/day. 

Those in the topiramate group ended up having markedly fewer days of heavy drinking, markedly less total alcohol consumption, and reduced measures of craving, compared to placebo. In general, the topiramate group had at least twice as much improvement in these measures, compared to placebo, which was clinically very significant.  

This study was consistent with others, showing that topiramate can be an effective treatment for alcoholism.  **  

Cognitive-side effects (e.g. memory impairment)  are the main problem with topiramate.  So it is interesting to consider whether lower doses could be useful.  Martinotti et al (2014) did a small study showing topiramate 100 mg per day was useful for treating alcohol dependent patients, with a comparable effect size as the study quoted above.    ***

I am interested in topiramate for other problems which feature compulsive behaviour.  There is some promise in OCD, the studies showing mixed results.  In a genetic disorder called Prader-Willi syndrome, which is characterized by obesity, compulsive self-injury, and intellectual handicap, a trial of topiramate led to significant improvements in the compulsive self-injury.  ****   There have been several studies (e.g. *****) showing that topiramate can be of use in treating binge eating or bulimia, at doses similar to those described above.  Topiramate is also a leading preventative treatment for recurrent or chronic migraines, at a dose of 100 mg daily (******).  It is reasonable, then to think of topiramate in the many cases where there are a combination of these problems, for example a patient with recurrent migraines, who also may have binge eating symptoms, alcohol abuse symptoms, or compulsive self-injury. 

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