Alcoholism-treatment medication acamprosate may help abstinent alcoholics sleep better

  • Alcoholics generally have dysfunctional sleep patterns, even during abstinence from alcohol.
  • New findings suggest that acamprosate shows promise as a treatment method for alleviating sleep disturbances experienced by alcoholics during abstinence
Alcoholics generally don't sleep well. Nor does abstinence improve the situation much. In fact, sleep difficulties during alcohol abstinence may be responsible for a relapse to alcoholism as individuals attempt to self medicate their sleeping problems. New findings show that an alcoholism-treatment drug called acamprosate, widely used in Europe, can alleviate post-withdrawal sleep disturbances by influencing glutamatergic transmission.

Results are published in the September issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"During chronic and excessive use of alcohol, short periods of deep sleep become interrupted by brief periods of restlessness," said Luc Staner, director of the Sleep Laboratory of the Centre Hospitalier de Rouffach. "This may also be accompanied by sleep terrors, sleepwalking and exacerbation of loud snoring or sleep apnea. During the day, alcohol intake can exacerbate sleepiness, which disrupts performance and contributes to accidents even when an individual is not significantly intoxicated." Staner is also a researcher at FORENAP, an organization that specializes in early drug development and research in neuroscience, located in Rouffach, France.

Sleep dysfunction does not necessarily improve with abstinence from alcohol, added Staner, who is also the corresponding author for the study. "Sleep is initially characterized by occasional nights of very little sleep and nightmares, followed by either progressive improvement or, very often, long-lasting sleep difficulties," he said. "If the latter, consequences may include decreased attention, vigilance, energy and concentration; increase in fatigue and malaise, irritability, e


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