Currently used to treat muscle spasms, baclofen (Lioresal) is a drug with anti-craving and anti-anxiety properties, which may help people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) resist triggers that can lead to relapse. Users of the drug report that it helps to control problem drinking; however, scientific studies are not yet conclusive on its efficacy in treating AUD in humans. The largest clinical trial to date did not find baclofen to be more effective than a placebo. Other studies that showed more promising results used higher doses of baclofen.
Results from the Baclofen for the Treatment of Alcohol Dependence (BACLAD) study showed that participants who were given high doses of baclofen over a twelve week period were able to better maintain abstinence than those given a placebo. The 2015 study also found that baclofen was well tolerated by those who took it, but that effective doses varied greatly among individuals. While promising, this study is too small to provide definitive conclusions and further research is being conducted to assess the effectiveness of baclofen in treating AUD.
Preliminary results from the Bacloville clinical trial in France, in which individually-titrated doses of baclofen were given to participants in increasing doses, found a higher rate of safe drinking (less than 2 drinks a day for women, less than 4 drinks per day for men) in those given baclofen versus those given placebo after a year. Further results from this study are pending.
However, the results of two other clinical trials, the Alpadir Study (France) and Beraha study (Netherlands) both presented at the World Congress for Alcohol and Alcoholism in Berlin in September 2016, showed no difference between baclofen and placebo groups.
James Garbutt, whose 2010 study did not show baclofen to be more effective than placebo, is currently enrolling for a new study testing baclofen in higher doses than were used in the previous study.
Another study being conducted by Lorenzo Leggio of the NIAAA to assess how safe and effective baclofen is for treating people who have alcohol-use disorder and high levels of anxiety has completed recruitment. Results should be available in the near future.
These studies will hopefully contribute more conclusive evidence on baclofen’s possible use in treating alcohol addiction.