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Genetic Targeting Improves Treatment for Alcoholism

Genetic Targeting Improves Treatment for Alcoholism

Genetic research may result in a new treatment for some alcoholics. Scientists at the University of Virginia have found that specific variations in a serotonin transporter gene can affect a person’s susceptibility to abusing alcohol. They have conducted a randomized double-blind trial of a drug called ondansetron that has an effect on serotonin. This drug was first approved in 1991 under the brand name Zofran. It was used to alleviate the severe nausea that can be caused by chemotherapy.
In the current study, individuals with a specific genotype, known as LL, had a very significant reduction in drinking after taking ondansetron compared to placebo. People with other varieties of the gene did not benefit. While the research is preliminary, the researchers believe that ondansetron “is a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of severe drinking among alcohol-dependent individuals with the LL genotype.”
[American Journal of Psychiatry, March, 2011]

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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