Several research studies have investigated the possibility that the antidepressant medication Luvox (fluvoxamine) could be an effective therapy for alcoholism. Most of the studies involved rats, but researchers consider the results applicable to humans as well. Despite the enormous public health burden of alcoholism, treatments for the disease are still well behind the curve. The rate of successful remission and abstinence is low, regardless of treatment plan. Comorbid disorders such as severe depression or anxiety further complicate matters and increase the likelihood of eventual relapse. Adequate treatment usually requires a combination of approaches—cognitive therapy for treatment of mood disorders, pharmaceuticals for managing alcohol withdrawal and cravings, and ongoing counseling to reduce the chances of a return to drinking.
A study with lab rats revealed that Luvox potentially reduces the response to food, or alcohol, or both, depending upon the experimental conditions. The goal of the study was to determine if Luvox might reduce the craving for alcohol, but the results were not conclusive in that regard. Significant changes in stimulus response were recorded even at very low doses of the medication. When food and alcohol were presented together, rats treated with Luvox responded less to food but maintained the same consumption of alcohol. However, presenting one stimulus and then another in sequence had differential effects. Responses to the second stimulus, regardless of whether it was food or alcohol, were decreased in the presence of Luvox. The temptation has always been to link all reward-seeking behaviors into a single category. Studies like the above, however, demonstrate that food-seeking and drug- or alcohol-seeking are biologically distinct events. The intricate and complex workings of such behaviors are still largely mysterious.
Due to uncertainties in its effectiveness for the purpose, Luvox is unlikely to play a role in the reduction of alcohol cravings. The rat studies returned mixed or confusing results, and no human trials have demonstrated a predictable, reliable mechanism of action. At this time, there isn’t enough evidence to conclude that the medication can successfully manage alcohol cravings. However, Luvox is effective in treating the depression and anxiety that accompany the recovery process after alcoholism. As a safe and effective mood stabilizer, Luvox reduces the chances of relapse. When Luvox is combined with cognitive therapy, a person recovering from alcohol addiction has a high likelihood of achieving a healthy outcome.
- PubMed Health [Internet]. (n.d.). Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine. Fluvoxamine. Retrieved April 4, 2012, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000955/
- Ginsburg, B. C., Lamb, R. J. (2006). Fluvoxamine effects on concurrent ethanol- and food-maintained behaviors. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 14(4), 483-492.
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