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]