WHAT IS TOPIRAMATE? Topiramate is a drug originally discovered in 1979. It is prescribed as an epilepsy medication and for migraine headaches. It is also used for a number of other purposes, including as a treatment for people with alcoholism. Researchers believe that topiramate works in two ways. First, it reduces the release of dopamine that follows the consumption of alcohol. This reduces the positive feeling that people receive from alcohol, and thus reduce the incentive to drink. Second, topiramate interferes with the protein glutamate which normally excites dopamine neurons and again, lessening the "feel good" effect of dopamine from alcohol.
WHAT IS ALCOHOL? Alcohol is created through the natural process of fermentation. This happens when yeast and sugar from vegetables and grains change the sugar into alcohol. When you drink alcohol, it is absorbed into your bloodstream, where it can affect the central nervous system, which is the control center for your entire body. Alcohol slows down this control center with its sedative effect. In moderation it can reduce anxiety, but it also blocks some of the commands the brain sends to other parts of the body, so it alters your senses. That's why, when drunk, people often have trouble walking, talking, and some may even "black out," forgetting what they said or did. Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol can even be fatal.
The American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.