Protocol Number: 05-AA-0120
Healthy normal volunteers and alcohol-dependent patients between 21 and 65 years of age may be eligible for this study.
Participants are admitted to the hospital for 28 days. They receive standard inpatient care for alcohol detoxification, including a medical history and physical examination, neurological evaluation, laboratory tests, nursing, nutrition, discharge planning and referrals for treatment of concomitant conditions, if needed. In addition, they are randomly assigned to take either two acamprosate or two placebo pills three times a day for 28 days and undergo the following tests and procedures:
-Days 1-28: Drug treatment. Patients take acamprosate or placebo daily. Patients with severe withdrawal symptoms may also receive diazepam (Valium). Throughout their hospitalization, patients fill out questionnaires about their emotional state and personality and are interviewed by staff about their mental health, use of alcohol, cigarettes, and illicit drugs, employment, support systems and family and social relationships, and their legal status.
-Days 2 and 3: Blood tests. Blood is tested for levels of the stress hormones cortisol and ACTH, which are released to excess during alcohol withdrawal. For this test, a heparin lock (thin, flexible plastic tube with a rubber stopper on the end) is placed in an arm vein for blood collections each day at 6 AM, 12 noon, 6 PM and 12 midnight. Patients rest in bed for 30 minutes before each collection.
-Day 4: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). These procedures are done at the same time. They use a strong magnetic field and radio waves to show structural and chemical changes in the brain. The patient lies on a table in a space enclosed by a metal cylinder (the scanner) for about 20 to 30 minutes during the test.
-Day 5: Lumbar puncture (spinal tap). A local anesthetic is given to numb the area for the procedure. Then, a needle is inserted in the space between the bones in the lower back where the cerebrospinal fluid circulates below the spinal cord. A small amount of fluid is collected through the needle.
-Days 5 and 6: Dexamethasone-corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) test. This test measures the effect of alcohol withdrawal on ACTH and cortisol. The patient takes a standard dose of the steroid dexamethasone at 11 PM on day 5. At noon the next day, they are given lunch and then stay in bed and rest. A plastic tube is put in an arm vein. A salt water solution is slowly infused through the catheter and a blood sample is withdrawn through it. At 3 p.m., the patient is given 100 micrograms of the hormone CRF. Repeated blood samples are obtained to measure ACTH and cortisol.
-Days 23-27: All of the tests done on days 2-6 are repeated, except the MRI. MRS is repeated to measure neurotransmitters.
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center
Bethesda, Maryland 20892. Last update: 09/17/2008