Baclofen Shows Promise in Helping Alcoholics with Liver Disease

Baclofen, also known as Lioresal, may be another tool in a growing list of medically-prescribed drugs that can help people recover from alcohol addiction. Research findings show that the drug holds promise for alcoholics, especially in cases of prolonged alcohol abuse that has already led to liver cirrhosis.

The drug has been specifically tested in Italy at the Institute of Internal Medicine at Catholic University for its effect on alcoholics who already have liver damage or disease. Perhaps most exciting to researchers is the belief that baclofen helps reduce cravings for alcohol but doesn’t seem to show adverse affects on the liver, in comparison with other medications for alcohol addiction, such as disulfiram, that may contribute to liver damage in some patients.

During a three-year trial from 2003 to 2006, more than 80 patients with alcohol addiction and cirrhosis of the liver were tested with baclofen at the Institute of Internal Medicine. They received at random either baclofen tablets or a placebo. For those assigned to baclofen, dosages lasted twelve weeks at 10 mg taken three times daily.

Results were encouraging, showing that some patients reached complete abstinence from alcohol and maintained the abstinence over time. Many more patients in the study reached abstinence than did patients who were not assigned baclofen. No negative effects on the liver were reported for those who took the drug.

In fact, the participants who took baclofen showed a rate of maintaining abstinence that was nearly two times higher than patients who received the placebo — nearly 63 days of abstinence, versus around 31 days. Those who resisted their cravings for alcohol also showed marked improvements toward biological indicators of liver damage or injury.

Baclofen shows only a fifteen percent rate of liver metabolism, in comparison to higher rates from other similar medications, and is primarily passed through the body from the kidney. Furthermore, baclofen has not shown negative effects for recovering alcoholics who also have disorders of the neurologic system.

The success of baclofen is also praised in the book “The End of My Addiction,” written by Dr. Olivier Ameisen and featured on ABC news in 2009. A French cardiologist, Ameisen claims that the drug liberated him from his alcohol desires and also helped remedy the anxiety that prompted his alcohol abuse in the first place.

Traditionally used as a muscle relaxer and to help with symptoms of multiple sclerosis, baclofen joins the ranks of other prescribed medications for addiction that can help a person reach the goal of abstinence – or a complete stop to using the addictive substance.
Though still under investigation, the drug’s success rates are encouraging more research into baclofen’s use as a tool not only for alcohol addiction, but also for cocaine.