Topiramate – a drug used to treat migraines and seizures, is gaining ground as an anti-craving drug for alcoholism. Other anti-convulsants, including Gabapentin and Valproate, have been investigated as possible treatments for alcohol dependence.
Topiramate may reduce dopamine release, thereby reducing alcohol cravings. Dopamine neurons are activated by alcohol and are believed to reinforce the craving associated with alcohol. Topiramate is thought to alter GABA function at a non-benzodiazepine site on the GABA A-receptor.
Dr. Bankole Johnson, chairman of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia, told Bloomberg News that Topamax does everything researchers want to see in a pharmaceutical treatment for alcoholism: “First, it reduces your craving for alcohol; second, it reduces the amount of withdrawal symptoms you get when you start reducing alcohol; and third, it reduces the potential for you to relapse after you go down to a low level of drinking or zero drinking.”