By serendipity, the scientific community has struck upon a drug which so far has been used to get chain smokers off cigarettes to treat alcoholism.
Study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago showed that when the chemical/drug varenicline, sold under the brand name Chantix, is administered to alcoholics the negative side effects of alcohol consumed increases and fosters a feeling of dislike towards it.
In other words, it could prove invaluable in the management and treatment of alcoholism. Chantix is an FDA-approved non-nicotine prescription drug specifically designed to help adults quit smoking.
In their study, the researchers administered a single dose of varenicline to a group of moderate-to-heavy social drinkers three hours prior to their alcohol consumption and noticed spiked dysphoria.
Dysphoria is an emotional state characterized by intense feelings of depression, discontent and indifference to the world. This in turn also increased the feeling of "dislike" of alcohol in these drinkers.
According to the first author of the study and research associate at the University of Chicago Medicine, Emma Childs, PhD, “Smokers who use varenicline are approximately two to three times more likely to remain abstinent six months or more after their quit date. After it was approved, several patients treated with varenicline also reported reductions in their drinking, so investigators began to assess if this was an actual effect and how it might be produced.” (1)
Scientists are beginning to look into the neurobiological mechanisms that are set into motion when varenicline is administered. Varenicline is a partial agonist of the brain's nicotinic receptors, with reduced alcohol craving or consumption.
It was observed in the study the tobacco-craving reduction chemical varenicline increased effects such as nausea, heart rate, blood pressure after alcohol consumption. It was noted that despite controlling for the effect of nausea upon the subsequent response to a drink, the increased dysphoria and reduced "drug liking" after drinking alcohol remained significant.