Earlier this year, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) examination of death certificates in the U.S. showed a sharp rise in alcohol-related deaths between 1999 and 2017. Connecticut mirrored those numbers, and addiction organizations stepped up their efforts to reach those in need. Then came the pandemic. Treatment centers, support groups and the state were suddenly ordered to shut down. “We like to say the opposite of addiction is connection,” said Thomas Russo, spokesman for the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR).
Yale researchers are exploring whether certain medications, including one sold to help smokers kick the habit, can help heavy drinkers reduce the amount of alcohol they consume. Yale School of Medicine is conducting a clinical trial to see whether those who frequently drink heavily and also smoke cigarettes find it easier to cut back on their drinking while taking varenicline. The drug, sold under the brand name Chantix, is marketed to help smokers quit but could also potentially help heavy drinkers drink less, according to lead researcher Stephanie O’Malley, a psychiatry professor at Yale. For many, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol “kind of go together, hand in hand,” she said. “Many people, when they drink they want to smoke.”
Previous studies, including one by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have found that Chantix does help reduce drinking for those who want to cut back, she said.