Combining Varenicline (Chantix) with Naltrexone Decreases Alcohol Drinking More Effectively Than Does Either Drug Alone in a Rodent Model of Alcoholism

Janice C. Froehlich, Stephen M. Fischer, Julian E. Dilley, Emily R. Nicholson, Teal N. Smith, Nick J. Filosa, Logan C. Rademacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations


Background: This study examined whether varenicline (VAR), or naltrexone (NTX), alone or in combination, reduces alcohol drinking in alcohol-preferring (P) rats with a genetic predisposition toward high voluntary alcohol intake. Methods: Alcohol-experienced P rats that had been drinking alcohol (15% v/v) for 2 h/d for 4 weeks were fed either vehicle (VEH), VAR alone (0.5, 1.0, or 2.0 mg/kg body weight [BW]), NTX alone (10.0, 15.0, or 20.0 mg/kg BW), or VAR + NTX in 1 of 4 dose combinations (0.5 VAR + 10.0 NTX, 0.5 VAR + 15.0 NTX, 1.0 VAR + 10.0 NTX, or 1.0 VAR + 15.0 NTX) at 1 hour prior to alcohol access for 10 consecutive days, and the effects on alcohol intake were assessed. Results: When administered alone, VAR in doses of 0.5 or 1.0 mg/kg BW did not alter alcohol intake but a dose of 2.0 mg/kg BW decreased alcohol intake. This effect disappeared when drug treatment was terminated. NTX in doses of 10.0 and 15.0 mg/kg BW did not alter alcohol intake but a dose of 20.0 mg/kg BW decreased alcohol intake. Combining low doses of VAR and NTX into a single medication reduced alcohol intake as well as did high doses of each drug alone. Reduced alcohol intake occurred immediately after onset of treatment with the combined medication and continued throughout prolonged treatment. Conclusions: Low doses of VAR and NTX, when combined in a single medication, reduce alcohol intake in a rodent model of alcoholism. This approach has the advantage of reducing potential side effects associated with each drug. Lowering the dose of NTX and VAR in a combined treatment approach that maintains efficacy while reducing the incidence of negative side effects may increase patient compliance and improve clinical outcomes for alcoholics and heavy drinkers who want to reduce their alcohol intake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1961-1970
Number of pages10
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016



  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Alcohol Treatment
  • Naltrexone
  • Selectively Bred Rats
  • Varenicline

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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