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Alcoholism Drug May Help Chocoholics


October 1995

The same drug that helps alcoholics stave off cravings may also help chocoholics stop the urges that lead to chocolate binge eating (Associated Press, "Chemical Sought to Melt Women's Lust for Chocolate," Washington Times, August 17, 1995, p. A8).

As was reported in the February issue of NewsBriefs, the drug naltrexone was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of alcoholism. The drug has been used as part of a treatment program for heroin addicts. Naltrexone acts by blocking the pleasurable effects of drugs, thus lessening the craving for them. It has been marketed under the name Trexan® and will be marketed for alcoholism as Revia® ("FDA Approves Drug to Curb Craving for Alcohol," NewsBriefs, February 1995).

High doses of naltrexone reduced binge eating and craving in 18 of 19 patients in a recent study. A similar drug, naloxone, was tested on women in a recent clinical trial. Women receiving naloxone ate 160 fewer calories per meal than women not receiving the drug. Women receiving the treatment also reported less craving for chocolate.

Although the drug shows promise for helping chronic bingers, more studies are planned before FDA approval is sought. Researchers caution that these drugs are not a quick fix for chocolate addicts, as naltrexone produces some serious side effects and naloxone can only be administered intravenously. Naltrexone has been associated with insomnia, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and cramps, lack of energy, joint and muscle pain, headaches, anxiety and nervousness in more than 10 percent of patients.