The study included 120 men who wanted to reduce binge drinking but were not severely dependent on alcohol. They were given naltrexone to take whenever they felt a craving for alcohol or anticipated they would be drinking heavily. Naltrexone is approved in the United States for the treatment of alcohol dependence. It is typically prescribed for patients with more severe alcohol disorders to take daily to abstain from drinking.
Half the men in the study were given naltrexone and half were given a placebo. All participants received weekly counseling on how to reduce alcohol use. At the end of 12 weeks, those who were given naltrexone said they binged less frequently and consumed less alcohol than those who had been given a placebo. This change lasted for up to six months.
Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, a physician-scientist at the National Institutes of Health, said the study was very important because the study’s participants had mild or moderate alcohol disorders. “If we attack the medical problem right away and early on, you cannot only treat the problem but prevent the development of the more severe forms of the disease,” Dr. Leggio said.