A study conducted by scientists from the University of Chicago and the Medical University of South Carolina, in the United States, has shown why a drug used in smoking cessation, varenicline, could also be effective for patients limiting the intake of alcohol.

In 2006 varenicline began to be administered in the United States to people who wanted to quit smoking, after checking that with this substance the patients had between two and three times less risk of relapse in this habit so harmful to the Health. Some of these patients decreased alcohol consumption during treatment, prompting researchers to try to discover if this was a direct consequence of the administration of varenicline and why it occurred.

Scientists found that varenicline alters the effects associated with alcohol consumption by increasing unpleasant sensations

To verify this, the authors of the study observed the effects of this substance on alcohol consumption, analyzing the reactions of 15 healthy volunteers (eight men and seven women), after they took either varenicline or placebo, and then Beverages containing placebo, or low or high doses of alcohol, respectively. The scientists found that varenicline alters the effects associated with alcohol consumption by increasing unpleasant sensations, and that for this reason people who take this drug have decreased their desire to drink alcohol.

The researchers explain that the drugs used to treat alcohol addiction act in two ways; or diminish the rewarding effects an individual achieves when drinking alcohol, or cause discomfort when it does, and varenicline works similarly to the latter. According to Hugh Myrick, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina, and one of the authors of the work, this effect of varenicline could be very useful considering that the dependence on tobacco is frequently associated with the consumption of alcohol, so that a drug that acts against both addictions would be very beneficial for the patients

Stop Smoking - Why is it so hard? - Mayo Clinic (November 2019).