A PILL that makes alcoholics want to drink less has been developed by scientists for the first time. The drug is thought to work by blocking mechanisms in the brain that give alcoholics enjoyment from drink and so helps them fight the urge to drink too much, a conference has heard.
It only needed to be taken when people were going out where they might be tempted to drink alcohol.
Alcoholics taking the drug and having counselling more than halved the amount of alcohol they drank a day and binged on fewer days.
The findings were presented at the European Psychiatric Association congress in Prague.
The drug, developed by Lundbeck pharmaceutical company, called nalmefene is not licensed yet and is currently going through clinical trials.
There are other drugs on the market that make addicts ill if they drink any alcohol at all but this is thought to be the first aimed at reducing the amount of alcohol consumed.
Side effects included dizziness, nausea, fatigue, sleep disorder or insomnia, vomiting, cold-like symptoms or excessive sweating.
Dr David Collier, of Barts and the London School of Medicine, said: "The people volunteering for these trials had real problems with alcohol dependence, most had never sought help before, and others had tried and failed with abstinence strategies -- stopping drinking for good.
"Abstinence is the right option for many people, but not everyone wants to do that, and in those that do try, it helps only about half of them.
"From our experience in these trials, reducing alcohol consumption to safer levels can be a realistic and practical treatment goal for people who are dependent on alcohol, that can bring many short- and longer-term benefits to health.
"These trial results suggest that the combination of medication and counselling could offer a new option for people."