There is a drug (as in prescription drug) out there which seems to help
a lot of people stop drinking. As in alcoholics. Its called baclofen.
It is a safe, old drug which was discovered about 90 years ago as a
treatment for epilepsy and is used mainly for MS and muscle spasticity.
About 10 years ago an alcoholic French doctor, Olivier Ameisen,
discovered that taking high doses of baclofen suppressed his craving
for alcohol. In effect, it cured his addiction.
He wrote a book called "The End of my Addiction", which was published
in the US in about 2008, and which describes his "miraculous" discovery
and his attempts to persuade the medical profession to adopt his
protocol. You can find out a lot about him and the book at the amazon
site or in Wikipedia.
Its not that he has been totally ignored. Numerous media outlets,
including ABC, Time and the Guardian, have written favorable reports.
Also, Science and Scientific American.
Since the publication of Ameisen’s book a number of studies have been
published which lend substantial credibility to Ameisen’s claims. Here
is a link to a recent journal article which surveys the literature
relating to baclofen:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3238087/. The literature,
while still sparse, is very encouraging.
There is a website and forum called My Way Out which supports
alcoholics looking for relief. Dozens of members of the forum have
taken baclofen (most often without medical assistance using online
overseas pharmacies) and the site reports dozens of successful
outcomes. Here are some of the stories:
If you know anything about the struggles alcoholics go through to quit,
and often to not kill themselves, you will be reduced almost to tears
reading these stories
The amazing thing, in addition to the discovery of a cure for
alcoholism, is the wall of silence, ignorance and denial
that the "establishment" has thrown up around the subject.
There is nary a word about baclofen on the website of the National
Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/)
or that of the American Society of Addiction Medicine
(http://www.asam.org/about-us). Nor is there a word on the website of
the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers
Most GPs and psychiatrists have never heard of baclofen and even when
told about Ameisen’s discovery are unwilling to prescribe it. At the
same time, all you have to do is google baclofen and alcohol to learn
just about everything that is known about the treatment. You can easily
find a French treatment protocol online which deals with all the issues
around prescribing baclofen for alcoholism:
But medical practitioners in the US apparently refuse to inform
The standard objection is that there are no placebo-based double blind
studies proving efficacy.
But the pharmaceutical industry sits on its hands and does nothing,
supposedly because the patent for baclofen has expired, thereby
disincenting the industry from doing (and paying for) the tests which
would confirm baclofen’s safety and efficacy. I am not aware of a
single pharmaceutical company-sponsored clinical study being undertaken
in the US.
The alcohol rehabilitation industry charges alcoholics $30,000 a month
basically to dry out and talk in a calm setting. I am not aware that
any have introduced baclofen therapy into a course of treatment. Three
of the largest and best-known treatment centers in the US are Betty
Ford, Hazelden and Caron. I searched each of their websites. Not one
contains even a reference to baclofen treatment.
A cynic might wonder why the industry would pursue a treatment which
involves taking a pill for a few dollars a day instead of paying
$30,000 a month for a treatment involving talk and abstinence which
holds no assurance against relapse.
And relapse is a real risk. See this video about why relapse occurs:
will quickly understand why standard ($30,000) alcohol rehab is highly
unlikely to prevent relapse. And be sure to watch from 8:45 on, where
the way baclofen works in the brain is described.
I have read that as many as 10% of adults have serious alcohol abuse or
dependence issues and 300 people a day die of alcohol-related causes.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent in the US on (largely
ineffective) treatments and billions are lost due to alcohol-related
Alcoholics Anonymous, the default treatment for alcoholism in the US,
is no treatment at all. It is essentially a mutual assistance group
which depends upon willpower, shame and a "higher power" to encourage
members to not drink. AA discourages the treatment of alcohol with
medicine (why, that’s just substituting one drug for another!). It
remains staunchly opposed to even understanding the chemistry of
addiction or alcoholism.
At the same time, there is a science-based treatment that, based on a
lot of evidence, actually works.
Why aren’t the government, the pharma companies, the rehab centers, the
doctors and AA pursuing it as fast as they can?
I think therein lies an important investigative documentary. Which
might do some real good.
Think about it…and please let me know if you have any interest or
know anyone who might.