Is there a cure for alcoholism?12th December 2008
An eminent French doctor claims he has found a miracle cure for alcoholism.
Baclofen is a cheap drug which has long been known as a cure for muscle spasms.
Olivier Ameisen says he broke his habit with the drug.
But alcoholism specialists are irritated that a cardiologist should claim there is a purely pharmaceutical solution to the problem.
They insist that the problem of alcoholism is not simply biochemical, but mental and social as well.
Nevertheless, anti-alcoholism clinics are being besieged by demands for treatment with the drug prescribed by Ameisen in his book, Le Dernier Verre.
Doctors in France and Switzerland have tested his methods and say they have been surprised by the results.
An English translation of the book will be published next year.
Baclofen is mainly prescribed to sufferers of cystic fibrosis or people who are partly or wholly paralysed.
Ameisen says the drug may be first used to ease, and then to destroy one's craving for alcohol.
Ameisen said that this is the first time a course of medicine has completely suppressed alcohol addiction.
Another French doctor who has tested the drug as an alcoholism cure is Renaud de Beaurepaire.
He said that he was surprised by the efficacy of the drug when prescribed to two long-term alcoholics.
Michel Reynaud said that encouraging people to think there is a miracle molecule is to completely misunderstand the nature of alcoholism.
Amiesen claims he spent nine months in alcohol-dependency clinics before experimenting with the drug.
In 2000, a friend sent him an article in The New York Times claiming that baclofen had cured an addiction to cocaine.
Ameisen searched through medical literature and found that the drug was known to have cured alcohol and cocaine addiction in laboratory rats.
He began to administer small doses of baclofen to himself on a daily basis.
After increasing the dose to 270mg a day, the doctor declared himself cured of alcoholism.
Although he says that now alcohol has no effect upon him and he no longer has an irrepressible need to drink, he still takes 50mg a day.
Xavier Laqueille, head of the St Anne hospital in Paris, said that alcoholism is a complex disease.
He said that both neuro-biological and psychosocial factors are entwined in the problem of alcoholism.
The French government authority which tests and approves pharmaceuticals warns that baclofen can have undesirable side-effects.
Since the drug has been out of copyright for more than ten years, pharmaceutical companies would not sponsor clinical trials of baclofen as an alcoholism cure.
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