A common muscle relaxant called baclofen has been shown in several studies to suppress cravings for alcohol and recreational drugs. It may just be the solution that could prevent the deaths of the approximately 2 million people around the world who die from the effects of alcohol each year, according to the World Health Organization.
Alcoholism is a disease characterized by an individual’s inability to control alcohol consumption. The disease is often chronic and progressive, and according to self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), addiction experts, and even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), no medication is considered a “cure” for alcoholism. However, a French-American doctor, Olivier Ameisen, M.D., has proven that alcoholism is not the incurable condition the world once thought it was.
Dr. Ameisen, a cardiologist at New York Hospital-Cornell University Medical College, used to be a binge drinker, who was regularly hospitalized for alcohol treatment—even after he had tried different modalities to cure himself of his alcohol addiction, including the use of the drug Antabuse, acupuncture, hypnosis, Valium, and yoga. He was also a participant in Alcoholics Anonymous.
In 2000, he happened to read an article in The New York Times about a cocaine user who cured his addiction by taking the drug baclofen, although the drug was prescribed as a muscle relaxant. The case study inspired Dr. Ameisen to self-medicate with baclofen, which resulted in his curing his alcohol addiction. He told The Guardian that the medication reduced his craving for alcohol and enabled him to abstain from alcohol consumption for longer periods until eventually, he became completely and effortlessly indifferent to alcohol.
Dr. Ameisen consequently authored a book titled The End of My Addiction: How One Man Cured Himself of Alcoholism, which became a bestseller in France in 2008. In the book, Dr. Ameisen states that baclofen, used off-label and in high doses, can cure not just alcoholism but also eliminate all addictions, including cocaine, heroin, smoking, bulimia and anorexia, compulsive shopping and gambling. The muscle relaxant and anti-spastic aspects of the medication (marketed under brand names Kemstro and Lioresal) appears to also alleviate panic attacks and obsessive thinking.
In a study titled Suppression of Alcohol Dependence Using Baclofen published in Front Psychiatry in 2012, one hundred patients underwent 2 years of observation to examine the long-term effects of baclofen in alcohol-dependent individuals who received baclofen treatment. The results showed that treatment with baclofen at sufficient doses produces a complete and effortless control of alcohol dependence in approximately half of the patients at any given point in time. In addition, 92% of the patients reported an effortless decrease in their motivation to drink.
Another study that had similar findings was conducted a few years prior by the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute which found that baclofen is an antidote for cocaine-addicted individuals. In 2007, a double-blind study conducted at the Institute of Internal Medicine of the Catholic University of Rome found that 70% of alcohol-dependent test subjects treated with baclofen achieved sobriety compared to only 30% of those treated with placebo.
Physicians from institutions like the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the McLean Hospital Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse of Harvard University have become advocates of baclofen for the suppression of alcohol, cocaine and heroin cravings.
Baclofen may provide the hope of a cure for the 14 million individuals addicted to alcohol in the United States alone—and the countless others addicted to recreational drugs. It may also prove to be one science-based therapy that could save the countless jobs and productivity hours that are lost each year as a result of these addictions, as well as the untold number of failed marriages, and children born with birth defects because of alcoholism and drug consumption.