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UTHSC partners with NIH in $35 million national alcoholism study (3-08-01)

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC) is one of only 11 institutions nationwide selected to conduct a major new alcoholism treatment study, investigators at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism announced today. The NIAAA is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

UTHSC soon will begin clinical research to test the effectiveness of two medications, both alone and together, with behavioral treatments for alcoholism. The study is known as Combining Medications and Behavioral Interventions (COMBINE).

Alcoholism affects about 13 percent of Americans at some point in their lives. Bankole A. Johnson, M.D., Ph.D., Wurzbach Distinguished Professor and principal investigator for the San Antonio project, says: “Alcoholism is a major health problem in the United States and in Bexar County. Finding effective treatment medications is a top national and local health priority.”

The Southwest Texas Addiction Research & Technology (START) Center, site of treatment research studies in addiction at UTHSC, will recruit several hundred people for this study. Participants will receive counseling in behavioral change and one or both of two medications (naltrexone and acamprosate) or a placebo. They will attend outpatient sessions for four months, then return for follow-up visits over the next year.

Naltrexone is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of alcoholism. It can interfere with brain neurotransmitter systems that reduce alcohol’s pleasurable effects. Researchers have shown that people treated with naltrexone are less likely to relapse to heavy drinking. Acamprosate has been used in Europe for about 14 years and is under review by the FDA. It is believed to ease the discomfort of abstinence and withdrawal, thereby helping to prevent drinking. Counseling and therapy is designed to support sobriety and increase medication compliance and involvement in mutual-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Says Johnson, “Using multiple treatments that can have additive effects is one of the strategies being pioneered at the START Center.”

The COMBINE study is recruiting people aged 18 years and older and there is no cost to participate. Call (210) 562-5400 for more information about this and other alcohol and drug treatment research studies at the START Center.

Contact: Will Sansom, (210) 567-2570, or Kathryn Dattomo, (210) 562-5410).