NIH Clinical Research Studies

Protocol Number: 08-AA-0137

Active Accrual, Protocols Recruiting New Patients

A Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo Controlled Trial (RCT) of Varenicline to Reduce Alcohol Consumption in Heavy Drinkers
This study will determine whether varenicline, a drug that acts on the brain's nicotine receptors and is used to help smokers stop smoking, will have an impact on alcohol drinking.

People between 24 and 60 years of age who regularly consume 20 to 40 alcoholic drinks per week may be eligible for this study. The study requires four outpatient visits and two overnight hospital admissions at the NIH Clinical Center.

Participants undergo the following procedures:

Visit 1 (outpatient)

-Standard assessments, including vital signs measurements, breathalyzer test, blood and urine tests, questionnaires about mood, symptoms (e.g., pain, nausea, shortness of breath, fatigue or anorexia), alcohol use and smoking, if applicable

-Questionnaires about medical and psychological status

-Health assessment and assessment of alcohol drinking behavior

Visit 2 (overnight)

-Standard assessments (see above)

-Alcohol self-administration study (ASAL). Subjects drink an alcoholic beverage over a 5-minute period. After 40 minutes, they are given a tray of four drinks they may consume over 1 hour. This is repeated with a second tray of four drinks they may consume over the next hour. Subjects are given $2.50 for each one of these eight drinks that they choose not to drink. During these 2 hours, subjects periodically take a breathalyzer test and complete rating scales about how they feel, including their desire to drink. Subjects stay overnight in the hospital.

Visit 3 (outpatient)

-Standard assessments

Visit 4 (outpatient)

-Breathalyzer test

-Pregnancy test for women who can become pregnant

-Brain magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI) and functional MRI. This test uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce images of the brain. The patient lies on a table that can slide in and out of the scanner, wearing earplugs to muffle loud sounds that occur during the scanning process. Initial pictures are taken of the brain's structure and additional scans measure brain activity while the subject performs simple tasks.

Visit 5 (overnight)

-Standard assessments

-Repeat ASAL

-Interview about the subject's experiences participating in the protocol, including any symptoms and urges to drink

Visit 6 (outpatient)

-Standard assessments (without blood tests)

-Interview about participation in the study

Telephone followup

After 3 weeks, subjects are called to check on their symptoms and gather information on their drinking and, if applicable, smoking.

Sponsoring Institute:
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Recruitment Detail
Type: Participants currently recruited/enrolled
Gender: Male & Female
Referral Letter Required: No
Population Exclusion(s): Children

Eligibility Criteria:

-Age 24 to 60 years of age.

-In good health.

-Drink a weekly average of 20-40 standard alcoholic drinks (12 gm ethanol/beverage), respectively, for women and men.

-Have a working phone number.


-Currently seeking help for an alcohol problem.

-Subjects with clinically significant alcohol withdrawal.

-More than thirty days of abstinence from alcohol in the ninety days prior to enrollment.

-A breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) above 0.08% at the first visit

-Drink less than three drinks at the initial, pre-study drug alcohol self-administration lab (ASAL).

-A history of major alcohol-related complications at any time, such as pancreatitis.

-Contraindication(s) to take the study medication as listed in the package insert.

-Current psychiatric problems requiring clinical attention: a current diagnosis of major depression, panic disorder, eating disorders, or history of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or obsessive compulsive disorder. Individuals who report suicidal ideation or who have a past history of suicide attempts.

-Recent (within the last two months) or regular use of illicit or non-prescribed psycho-active substances such as opiates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, PCP, methamphetamines/other psychostimulants or marijuana.

-Psycho-social instability (e.g. no fixed address, no reliable secondary person to contact in case of an emergency).

-Women who are lactating, are trying to become pregnant or who are not willing to practice safe and effective birth control.

-Moderate-to-severe renal impairment defined as estimated or measured creatinine clearance less than 30 mL/min.

-Use of bupropion or nicotine replacement therapy within 90 days of the protocol, inhibitors/substrates for renal cationic transporters, or medications contraindicated with ethanol.

Special Instructions:
Currently Not Provided
Recruitment Keyword(s):
Alcohol Use
Alcohol Drinking
Investigational Drug(s):
Investigational Device(s):
Drug: Varenicline
Supporting Site:
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison Office
Building 61
10 Cloister Court
Bethesda, Maryland 20892-4754
Toll Free: 1-800-411-1222
TTY: 301-594-9774 (local),1-866-411-1010 (toll free)
Fax: 301-480-9793


Lachin JM, Matts JP, Wei LJ. Randomization in clinical trials: conclusions and recommendations. Control Clin Trials. 1988 Dec;9(4):365-74.

Wei LJ, Lachin JM. Properties of the urn randomization in clinical trials. Control Clin Trials. 1988 Dec;9(4):345-64. Erratum in: Controlled Clin Trials 1989 Mar;10(1):following 126.

Falk DE, Yi HY, Hiller-Sturmhšfel S. An epidemiologic analysis of co-occurring alcohol and tobacco use and disorders: findings from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Alcohol Res Health. 2006;29(3):162-71.

Active Accrual, Protocols Recruiting New Patients

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