Objective: Naltrexone, an efficacious medication for alcohol dependence, does not work for everyone. Symptom s such as insomnia and mood instability that are m ost evident during early abstinence might respond better to a different pharmacotherapy. Gabapentin may reduce these symptoms and help prevent early relapse. This clinical trial evaluated whether the combination of naltrexone and gabapentin was better than naltrexone alone and/or placebo during the early drinking cessation phase (first 6 weeks), and if so, whether this effect persisted.
Method: A total of 150 alcohol-dependent individuals were randomly assigned to a 16-week course of naltrexone alone (50 m g/day [N=50]), naltrexone (50 m g/ day) with gabapentin (up to 1,200 m g/ day [N=50]) added for the first 6 weeks, or double placebo (N=50). All participants received m edical m anagem ent.
Results: During the first 6 weeks, the naltrexone-gabapentin group had a longer interval to heavy drinking than the naltrexone-alone group, which had an interval similar to that of the placebo group; had fewer heavy drinking days than the naltrexone-alone group, which in turn had more than the placebo group; and had fewer drinks per drinking day than the naltrexonealone group and the placebo group. These differences faded over the remaining weeks of the study. Poor sleep was associated with more drinking in the naltrexone-alone group but not in the naltrexone-gabapentin group, while a history of alcohol withdrawal was associated with better response in the naltrexone-gabapentin group.
Conclusions: The addition of gabapentin to naltrexone im proved drinking outcom es over naltrexone alone during the first 6 weeks after cessation of drinking. This effect did not endure after gabapentin was discontinued.