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Naltrexone for Heavy Drinking in Young Adults

Information source: Yale University
ClinicalTrials.gov processed this data on August 23, 2015
Link to the current ClinicalTrials.gov record.

Condition(s) targeted: Alcohol Consumption; Alcoholic Intoxication; Alcoholism; Alcohol-induced Disorders

Intervention: BASICS counseling (Behavioral); naltrexone (Drug); placebo naltrexone (Drug)

Phase: Phase 4

Status: Completed

Sponsored by: Yale University

Official(s) and/or principal investigator(s):
Stephanie O'Malley, PhD, Principal Investigator, Affiliation: Yale University


In this study, 140 heavy drinking young adults (aged 18-25) will be provided with brief counseling and either naltrexone, a medication that is FDA-approved for the treatment of alcohol dependence, or placebo over the course of 8 weeks. A novel strategy will be used for administering low-dose naltrexone, in which daily dosing will be combined with targeted dosing in anticipation of high-risk situations. The main hypotheses are that daily + targeted naltrexone will result in greater reductions in frequency of heavy and any drinking compared with daily + targeted placebo.

Clinical Details

Official title: Naltrexone for Heavy Drinking in Young Adults

Study design: Allocation: Randomized, Endpoint Classification: Efficacy Study, Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment, Masking: Double Blind (Subject, Caregiver, Investigator), Primary Purpose: Treatment

Primary outcome:

Frequency of Heavy Episodic Drinking

Frequency of Heavy Episodic Drinking

Percent Days Abstinent From Drinking

Percent Days Abstinent From Drinking

Secondary outcome:

Number of Drinks Per Drinking Day

Number of Drinks Per Drinking Day

Percentage of Drinking to an Estimated Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 or Higher

Detailed description: NIAAA has designated underage drinking as a priority research area. Of note, the highest prevalence of problem alcohol use is among young adults ages 18-25. Heavy drinking that occurs during this period can have important immediate and lifelong adverse consequences. Behavioral interventions, notably BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students), have been developed to help young adults reduce their drinking. Although these interventions are effective, including with college students mandated to treatment and others with minimal motivation to stop drinking, the effect sizes are modest, suggesting that new approaches are needed to enhance these interventions. A promising strategy yet to be tested in young adults is the use of the opiate antagonist naltrexone. In other research, naltrexone has been shown to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed, even in the absence of strong internal motivation to change, and to reduce the frequency of any and heavy drinking in problem drinkers seeking treatment. Thus we propose to conduct an 8 week double-blind placebo-controlled trial to test the combined efficacy of BASICS + naltrexone in 132 young adults aged 18-25 who drink heavily. A novel strategy will be used for administering low-dose naltrexone, in which daily dosing will be combined with targeted dosing in anticipation of high-risk situations. The main hypotheses are that daily + targeted naltrexone will result in greater reductions in frequency of heavy and any drinking compared with daily + targeted placebo. In order to enhance the sensitivity with which we are able to assess naltrexone's effects on drinking, daily ratings will be obtained during treatment. These will permit us to examine alternative measures of alcohol involvement (e. g., reports of subjective intoxication, estimated blood alcohol levels) in addition to the traditional measures based on number of drinks consumed. These data will also be used to examine potential mediators (e. g., craving, subjective effects of alcohol) of treatment response in order to better understand the effects of naltrexone. The durability of treatment effects will be examined at 3, 6 and 12 months after randomization. Demonstration of the efficacy of naltrexone in this population will provide the essential information needed for its adoption by college counseling centers and other health care settings committed to reducing the risk of heavy drinking in young adults.


Minimum age: 18 Years. Maximum age: 25 Years. Gender(s): Both.


Inclusion Criteria: Each subject must: 1. Be between the ages of 18 and 25; 2. Report heavy drinking 4 or more times in the past 4 weeks. Heavy drinking is defined as 4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more drinks for men on an occasion; 3. Be able to read English and show no evidence of significant cognitive impairment. 4. That women of child-bearing potential (i. e., who has not had a hysterectomy, bilateral oophorectomy, or tubal ligation), be nonlactating, practicing a reliable method of birth control, and have a negative urine pregnancy test prior to initiation of treatment. Exclusion Criteria: No subject may: 1. Exhibit current, clinically significant physical disease or abnormality on the basis of medical history, physical examination, or routine laboratory evaluation, including AST or ALT levels greater than 3 times normal or bilirubin levels greater than 110% of normal. Individuals with common medical conditions (e. g., asthma, diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease) that are adequately controlled and who have a relationship with a primary-care practitioner will not be excluded; 2. Exhibit serious psychiatric illness (i. e., schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe major depression, panic disorder, borderline personality disorder, organic mood or mental disorders, or substantial suicide or violence risk) by history or psychological examination; 3. Have a current diagnosis of DSM-IV drug dependence other than nicotine, or a lifetime history of DSM-IV opiate dependence; 4. Have a current DSM-IV diagnosis of alcohol dependence that is clinically severe defined by a) a history of seizures, delirium, or hallucinations during alcohol withdrawal, b) a Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment scale (Sullivan et al., 1989) score of > 8, c) report drinking to avoid withdrawal symptoms, or d) have had prior treatment of withdrawal. 5. Have used opioids or concomitant therapy with any psychotropic drug in the past month, except that subjects who are on a stable dose of a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor for at least two months for the indications of Major Depressive Disorder, Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) will not be excluded; SSRIs are allowed due to their safety profile relative to other classes of antidepressants. 6. Have a history of hypersensitivity to naltrexone; 7. Be considered by the investigators to be an unsuitable candidate for receipt of an investigational drug. 8. The investigators may exclude participants who complete daily questionnaires on less than half of the days between intake and treatment.

Locations and Contacts

Connecticut Mental Health Center - Substance Abuse Treatment Unit, New Haven, Connecticut 06511, United States
Additional Information

Starting date: February 2008
Last updated: July 22, 2014

Page last updated: August 23, 2015

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