Pharmacological Treatments for Alcoholism: Revisiting Lithium and Considering Buspirone

Authors

  • Jan Fawcett,

    1. Departments of Psychiatry (J.F., H.M.K., M.M., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C., M.W., G.K.) and Preventive Medicine (H.M.K.), Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Rush Medical College of Rush University (J.F., H.M.K., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C.), and the Department of Psychiatry (J.J.), University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago; and the Alexian Brothers Medical Center (G.T.), Elk Grove, Illinois.
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  • Howard M. Kravitz,

    Corresponding author
    1. Departments of Psychiatry (J.F., H.M.K., M.M., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C., M.W., G.K.) and Preventive Medicine (H.M.K.), Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Rush Medical College of Rush University (J.F., H.M.K., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C.), and the Department of Psychiatry (J.J.), University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago; and the Alexian Brothers Medical Center (G.T.), Elk Grove, Illinois.
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  • Marcella McGuire,

    1. Departments of Psychiatry (J.F., H.M.K., M.M., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C., M.W., G.K.) and Preventive Medicine (H.M.K.), Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Rush Medical College of Rush University (J.F., H.M.K., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C.), and the Department of Psychiatry (J.J.), University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago; and the Alexian Brothers Medical Center (G.T.), Elk Grove, Illinois.
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  • Michael Easton,

    1. Departments of Psychiatry (J.F., H.M.K., M.M., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C., M.W., G.K.) and Preventive Medicine (H.M.K.), Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Rush Medical College of Rush University (J.F., H.M.K., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C.), and the Department of Psychiatry (J.J.), University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago; and the Alexian Brothers Medical Center (G.T.), Elk Grove, Illinois.
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  • Jeffrey Ross,

    1. Departments of Psychiatry (J.F., H.M.K., M.M., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C., M.W., G.K.) and Preventive Medicine (H.M.K.), Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Rush Medical College of Rush University (J.F., H.M.K., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C.), and the Department of Psychiatry (J.J.), University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago; and the Alexian Brothers Medical Center (G.T.), Elk Grove, Illinois.
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  • Vincent Pisani,

    1. Departments of Psychiatry (J.F., H.M.K., M.M., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C., M.W., G.K.) and Preventive Medicine (H.M.K.), Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Rush Medical College of Rush University (J.F., H.M.K., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C.), and the Department of Psychiatry (J.J.), University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago; and the Alexian Brothers Medical Center (G.T.), Elk Grove, Illinois.
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  • Louis F. Fogg,

    1. Departments of Psychiatry (J.F., H.M.K., M.M., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C., M.W., G.K.) and Preventive Medicine (H.M.K.), Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Rush Medical College of Rush University (J.F., H.M.K., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C.), and the Department of Psychiatry (J.J.), University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago; and the Alexian Brothers Medical Center (G.T.), Elk Grove, Illinois.
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  • David Clark,

    1. Departments of Psychiatry (J.F., H.M.K., M.M., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C., M.W., G.K.) and Preventive Medicine (H.M.K.), Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Rush Medical College of Rush University (J.F., H.M.K., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C.), and the Department of Psychiatry (J.J.), University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago; and the Alexian Brothers Medical Center (G.T.), Elk Grove, Illinois.
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  • Michael Whitney,

    1. Departments of Psychiatry (J.F., H.M.K., M.M., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C., M.W., G.K.) and Preventive Medicine (H.M.K.), Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Rush Medical College of Rush University (J.F., H.M.K., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C.), and the Department of Psychiatry (J.J.), University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago; and the Alexian Brothers Medical Center (G.T.), Elk Grove, Illinois.
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  • Glenda Kravitz,

    1. Departments of Psychiatry (J.F., H.M.K., M.M., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C., M.W., G.K.) and Preventive Medicine (H.M.K.), Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Rush Medical College of Rush University (J.F., H.M.K., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C.), and the Department of Psychiatry (J.J.), University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago; and the Alexian Brothers Medical Center (G.T.), Elk Grove, Illinois.
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  • Javaid Javaid,

    1. Departments of Psychiatry (J.F., H.M.K., M.M., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C., M.W., G.K.) and Preventive Medicine (H.M.K.), Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Rush Medical College of Rush University (J.F., H.M.K., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C.), and the Department of Psychiatry (J.J.), University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago; and the Alexian Brothers Medical Center (G.T.), Elk Grove, Illinois.
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  • Gregory Teas

    1. Departments of Psychiatry (J.F., H.M.K., M.M., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C., M.W., G.K.) and Preventive Medicine (H.M.K.), Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Rush Medical College of Rush University (J.F., H.M.K., M.E., J.R., V.P., L.F.F., D.C.), and the Department of Psychiatry (J.J.), University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago; and the Alexian Brothers Medical Center (G.T.), Elk Grove, Illinois.
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  • This study was supported by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Grant AA07645.

Reprint requests: Howard M. Kravitz, DO, MPH, Rush Institute for Mental Well-Being, 1725 West Harrison Street, Suite 955, Chicago, IL 60612.

Abstract

Objective Previous research has suggested that both lithium and buspirone could lessen alcoholics’ desire to drink as well as reduce the actual amounts of alcohol consumed. The purpose of this study was to compare lithium and buspirone monotherapy with placebo on outcomes of abstinence, alcohol quantity consumed, treatment retention and compliance, and medication side effects.

Methods: We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, three-arm parallel group, clinical trial that compared lithium and buspirone with placebo in 156 alcohol-dependent men.

Results: Study retention rates for the three treatment groups at 3 and 6 months, respectively, were 61% and 46% for lithium, 44% and 27% for buspirone, and 52% and 38% for placebo (p= NS, for 3 and 6 months). Overall abstinence rates were 28% and 19% at 3 and 6 months, respectively. However, mean daily quantities of alcohol consumed and percentage of drinking days decreased significantly (p < 0.0001) over time in all treatment groups. Differential improvement was seen only for the decrement in quantity consumed in the buspirone group, compared with the placebo group, but only at a trend level (p= 0.07). According to pill counts, compliance did not differ significantly among the treatment groups.

Conclusions: These results do not support the hypothesis that either lithium or buspirone, compared with placebo, produces differential reductions in alcohol consumption. The results suggest the need to enhance treatment retention to maximize outcomes.

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