Effects of Ondansetron in Early- Versus Late-Onset Alcoholics: A Prospective, Open-Label Study


  • Supported by NIH Grants AA13736, AA03510, and RR06192.

Henry R. Kranzler, MD, Department of Psychiatry, MC2103, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, 263 Farmington Ave., Farmington, CT 06030; Fax: 860-679-1316; E-mail: kranzler@psychiatry.uchc.edu.


Background: Early-onset alcoholics (EOAs) have a greater familial loading for alcoholism, more severe progression of the disorder, a greater severity of comorbid psychopathology, and a poorer response to treatment than late-onset alcoholics (LOAs). Ondansetron, a 5-hydroxytryptamine-3 antagonist, was found to be superior to placebo in the treatment of EOAs, but not of LOAs. This study compared the tolerability and potential efficacy of an oral solution of ondansetron in EOAs versus LOAs.

Methods: Forty outpatients with alcohol dependence (67.5% male; 87.5% European American; 20 EOAs; 20 LOAs) received an oral solution of ondansetron at a dosage of 4 μg/kg twice daily for 8 weeks, together with weekly relapse-prevention therapy.

Results: EOAs had a significantly greater decrease in drinks per day, drinks per drinking day, and alcohol-related problems than LOAs. Changes in the level of carbohydrate-deficient transferrin were consistent with changes in self-reported drinking behavior.

Conclusions: An oral solution of ondansetron seems suitable for the treatment of alcohol dependence, yielding findings consistent with evidence from a placebo-controlled trial that ondansetron, at a dosage of 4 μg/kg twice daily, is of value in the treatment of EOAs.