Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, is a major public health concern that is a considerable risk factor for morbidity and disability; therefore, effective treatments are urgently needed. Here, we demonstrated that the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) antagonist mifepristone reduces alcohol intake in alcohol-dependent rats but not in nondependent animals. Both systemic delivery and direct administration into the central nucleus of the amygdala, a critical stress-related brain region, were sufficient to reduce alcohol consumption in dependent animals. We also tested the use of mifepristone in 56 alcohol-dependent human subjects as part of a double-blind clinical and laboratory-based study. Relative to placebo, individuals who received mifepristone (600 mg daily taken orally for 1 week) exhibited a substantial reduction in alcohol-cued craving in the laboratory, and naturalistic measures revealed reduced alcohol consumption during the 1-week treatment phase and 1-week post-treatment phase in mifepristone-treated individuals. Mifepristone was well tolerated and improved liver-function markers. Together, these results support further exploration of GR antagonism via mifepristone as a therapeutic strategy for alcoholism.
Leandro F. Vendruscolo, David Estey, Vivian Goodell, Lauren G. Macshane, Marian L. Logrip, Joel E. Schlosburg, M. Adrienne McGinn, Eva R. Zamora-Martinez, Joseph K. Belanoff, Hazel J. Hunt, Pietro P. Sanna, Olivier George, George F. Koob, Scott Edwards, Barbara J. Mason