Introduction: Alcohol dependence represents a severe pathological disorder associated with a significant rate of morbidity and mortality. To date, limited pharmacological agents exist to treat this disorder, and there is a growing interest for new therapies. In this context, pregabalin represents a promising strategy. Pregabalin, like gabapentin, selectively binds to the α(2)δsubunit of voltage-gated calcium channels, inhibiting release of excessive levels of excitatory neurotransmitters. The main focus of this review is the clinical use of pregabalin in alcoholic patients, but the authors also reported some data about chemistry, pharmacology, and pharmacokinetics of this drug.
Methods: The authors conducted a PubMed search of clinical human studies published in English from January 2000 to August 2012 using the following search terms: pregabalin alcohol dependence, pregabalin alcohol withdrawal, pregabalin alcoholism.
Results: The search revealed a total of five studies: two trials for the treatment of alcohol relapse and three articles for the management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome with pregabalin. The critical review of the literature suggests that pregabalin could be a novel and effective treatment option for the management of alcohol relapse in detoxified patients, whereas until now there have been mixed results for the treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. In particular, pregabalin showed a greater beneficial effect on patients with comorbid conditions such as alcoholism and generalized anxiety disorders. The exact mechanism of action of pregabalin in the management of alcoholism is not well understood but it is thought to be due mainly to the modulation of neurotransmitters such as glutamate and norepinephrine by inhibiting activity-dependent calcium influx in nerve terminals.
Conclusion: Pregabalin, within a dosage of 150-450 mg/day, showed beneficial effects for alcohol relapse prevention and contrasting results for the treatment of the withdrawal syndrome. Its use appears to be safe and well tolerated.