Here is an article from The Guardian on Dr. Olivier Ameisen and baclofen: “The little pill that could cure alcoholism”. From the article:
“It’s not that there is much argument over how baclofen might work. Recent advances in brain imaging have increased knowledge of the function of the pleasure and reward systems, and suggested that addiction interferes with the balance of the neurotransmitters dopamine, glutamate and gamma- aminobutyric acid (GABA). “What baclofen does is stimulate the GABA-B receptors, and you see the release of dopamine and glutamate is slowed, so the reward system is normalised,” says Ameisen. It is even widely accepted that baclofen in low doses treats withdrawal from alcoholism, though no more effectively than several other medications. What proved more controversial was Ameisen’s theory of the “threshold dose”, which he says is “needed to break the cycle of addictive craving, preoccupation and obsessive thoughts” and which moves baclofen from treatment to cure.”
A couple of years ago, Scientific American ran a series of stories on “self-experimenters”, including this one on Dr. Ambeisen. There is good information in the story. We have also written here before about Dr. Ambeisen and his use of baclofen to treat himself. What is as interesting as the story itself, is the comment section. There are a couple of nice snippets of AA dogma, including this gem below, which I thought I would highlight for those in need of a daily chuckle:
“It is regretable [sic] that AA did not work for this man. From my experience, he could not get out of self long enough to let it. Ego is the main target of alcoholismn [sic] and and the only remeidy [sic] I have ever seen is true spiritualism. Unfortunately, you have to get out of self long enough to gain the proverbal [sic] high ground perspective of spiritual intervention. I guess this is the reason that AA is not for everyone. Some sorry souls are so wound up with self, they cannot alter their perspectives, even momentarily. I feel very sadened [sic] for this man and can only think of the quote, “heal thy self physician.” This must be true for anyone who will not let God do it.”
We are often asked to post alternatives to AA, or what our opinion is in terms of treating addiction, beyond simply quitting. My opinion of using baclofen to treat alcohol addiction is no different than it is of naltrexone, campral, CBT or any other treatment option. Subject it to proper, scientific, peer reviewed research – and if it shows to be effective in treating addiction, it should be looked at as a possibility for treatment. If it is unwilling to subject itself to the scientific method, and is unwilling to change or improve upon itself (as is the case with AA); or, if it has shown itself to be ineffective by objective research (also AA and Twelve Step Facilitation) – then it is most likely snake oil.
I have no idea whether or not baclofen is an effective treatment for alcoholism. I read Dr. Ambeisen’s book, and would recommend it to anyone interested in the subject of addiction recovery. My guess is that it most likely is effective, but my opinion is not what matters, which is the beauty of science. What does matter is what the science says, and there is currently research being done on the effectiveness of baclofen, including a study at the University of North Carolina on the use of baclofen in conjunction with naltrexone. These are controlled, double-blind studies on which science thrives, and AA avoids like the plague.