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The smoking cessation drug varenicline (Chantix) shows promise in treating alcohol dependence, a new study suggests. The study, conducted by scientists at the National Institute of Health, found the drug significantly reduces alcohol consumption and craving in people who are alcohol-dependent, MedicalXpress reports.

The study included 200 alcohol-dependent adults, who received either varenicline or a placebo daily for 13 weeks. Male participants reported drinking an average of at least 35 drinks per week before the study began, while women had an average of 28 drinks weekly.

The researchers found the percentage of heavy drinking days per week declined almost 22 percent in those who took varenicline, compared with those who took a placebo. People treated with varenicline also reported significantly reduced alcohol craving. The treatment’s effectiveness was similar for both smokers and nonsmokers.

The drug’s effects were comparable to those seen in two medications already approved by the Food and Drug Administration for alcohol dependence, naltrexone and acamprosate. Varenicline’s side effects, such as nausea, abnormal dreams and constipation, generally were mild.

The study appears in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

“This is an encouraging development in our effort to expand and improve treatment options for people with alcohol dependence,” Kenneth R. Warren, PhD, Acting Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said in a news release. “Current medications for alcohol dependence are effective for some, but not all, patients. New medications are needed to provide effective therapy to a broader spectrum of alcohol dependent individuals.”

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