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January 28, 2011

A new approach to curb college-age binge drinking?

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A team of University of Virginia Health System addiction researchers is leading a first-of-its-kind study testing a medication called ondansetron to treat severe or binge drinking among 18- to 25-year olds, a group at higher risk for developing drinking problems.

The clinical trial, funded by a $3.2 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), is now being offered to qualifying young adults through the UVA Center for Addiction Research and Education (CARE) in both Charlottesville and Richmond, Va.

Through this innovative study, researchers are trying to identify whether individuals with a certain type of genetic makeup respond best to the medication ondansetron or a placebo.   Ondansetron, also known as Zofran, is typically used to prevent nausea and vomiting following surgery or chemotherapy.  It works by blocking the hormone serotonin, which triggers nausea and vomiting.  In previous studies, however, ondansetron has been found to have an important pharmacogenetic effect on alcohol craving.

“What we predict is a greater reduction in the severity of drinking among individuals with a specific type of genetic makeup,” explains Professor Bankole Johnson, D.Sc., M.D., Ph.D., M.Phil., FRCPsych., chairman of the UVA Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.   “This study has important implications not only for student health but also for the future of offering personalized treatment.”

For more information about this 13-week outpatient clinical trial or other ongoing addiction studies, contact UVA CARE at (434) 243-0549.

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