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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2004 Aug;28(8):1137-44.

Progress in the development of topiramate for treating alcohol dependence: from a hypothesis to a proof-of-concept study.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Division of Alcohol and Drug Addiction, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, South Texas Addiction Research and Technology (START) Center, San Antonio, Texas, USA.


Advances in neuroscientific knowledge have evoked interest in developing effective medications for the treatment of alcohol dependence. Pharmacological approaches that involve the use of relatively specific medications at a particular neuronal target to modulate corticomesolimbic dopamine neuronal activity, the critical pathway for expression of the reinforcing effects of abused drugs, have yielded modest efficacy in the treatment of alcohol dependence. A new approach is needed. Because corticomesolimbic dopamine neurons interact with a variety of neurotransmitters that modulate its effects in the nucleus accumbens, it might be possible to more reliably control these dopaminergic effects with a medication that acted contemporaneously on more than one neuromodulator of dopamine function. Additionally, because alcohol use results in neuronal adaptations due to sensitization, the chances of effective therapy might be bolstered by administering a medication that also has utility with mitigating its chronic effects. My proposed conceptual framework suggests that a medication that facilitates inhibitory gamma-aminobutyric acid-A input and antagonizes excitatory glutaminergic afferents to the nucleus accumbens would have pharmacotherapeutic potential in treating the alcohol dependence syndrome because these effects would act contemporaneously to suppress corticomesolimbic dopamine release. Through similar effects, topiramate might also aid chronic drinkers to wean themselves off alcohol and might ameliorate the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. This commentary highlights the scientific concepts and clinical evidence for the development of topiramate in the treatment of alcohol dependence.

Copyright 2004 Research Society on Alcoholism

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