Kava as an anticraving agent: preliminary data

Pac Health Dialog. 2001 Sep;8(2):335-9.


Drug and alcohol abuse is one of the United States' most expensive and damaging health risk. The financial and social costs of addiction have led to a significant investment in prevention and treatment in an effort to reduce the incidence and prevalence of drug abuse. One important area of research is the chemistry of craving. It is assumed that if the neurological process of craving can be interrupted, then addiction can be successfully treated. The active ingredients found in kava, known as kavapyrones, have been found to bind to many sites in the brain that are associated with addiction and craving. In an effort to determine if kava can decrease the craving associated with substances of abuse, a craving survey and pilot study were completed where cravings of alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, and heroin were examined. The preliminary findings suggest that kava may reduce the craving associated with addiction. In one investigation, the participants reported a reduction in their desire for their drug of choice. In another investigation, a standardized amount of kavapyrones led to an apparent difference in abstinence between the experimental and placebo groups for alcohol. The studies presented are considered preliminary and exploratory, and intended only as a precursor to future, more systematic and large-scale investigations. If the findings are confirmed, kava may be a useful component to the treatment of addictions, especially for Native Hawaiian and Pacific peoples.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Behavior, Addictive / ethnology
  • Behavior, Addictive / therapy*
  • Ethnicity / psychology*
  • Hawaii
  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons
  • Kava*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / therapy
  • Substance-Related Disorders / ethnology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*
  • United States


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents