December 14, 2011 (Scottsdale, Arizona) — Inhibition of the catechol O-methyl-transferase (COMT) enzyme, which decreases synaptic dopamine levels, may be a novel and effective way to fight alcohol dependence, new research suggests.
In a small, open-label study of 25 psychiatric outpatients with AD, 88% of the participants showed anti-craving effects after taking the COMT-inhibitor entacapone (Comtan, Orion Corp.) for 12 weeks.
In addition, entacapone, which was given along with routinely used psychiatric medication, was not associated with any serious treatment-related adverse effects.
“This is the first study of its kind to show COMT inhibition as a potential pharmacological method of combatting alcohol craving,” principal investigator Rahim Shafa, MD, scientific director at MetroWest CNS Research Center in Natick, Massachusetts, told Medscape Medical News.
“For decades, a need has been recognized for a tolerable, non–habit forming compound to balance out the hypodopaminergic state of drug craving. In our study population, entacapone was effective to counteract both cue craving and ordinary mental craving, which is usually a product of nostalgia from getting high,” note the investigators.
They add that entacapone was also effective in alleviating alcoholic post-withdrawal dysphoria.
“I would like us to start thinking out of the box about how the reward system operates. That will help us to open up some new avenues for treatment of craving across the board,” said Dr. Shafa.
The results were presented here at the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) 22nd Annual Meeting & Symposium.