Thursday, December 18, 2008

Doctor claims miracle cure for alcoholism

An eminent French doctor believes he has found not just a treatment for compulsive drinking but a miracle cure.

The claims, made by Dr Olivier Ameisen in a book which has jumped into the best-sellers' list in France, have created a huge stir in the European medical establishment.

Fellow doctors in France and Switzerland -- often under pressure from patients -- have tested his methods and say that they were "astonished" by the results.

Other specialist doctors and anti-alcoholism campaigners are sceptical and even angry that Dr Ameisen -- a leading cardiologist -- should claim there is a simple pharmaceutical solution to what they insist is a complex physical, mental and social disease.

Nonetheless, anti-alcoholism clinics are being besieged by demands for treatment with the drug prescribed by Dr Ameisen in his book, 'Le Dernier Verre' ('The Last Glass'). An English translation will be published next year.

The French government agency which tests new drugs has taken the unusual step of deciding to examine the doctor's claims -- unusual because the drug he has "discovered" is not new.

Baclofen is a cheap drug which has long been known as a cure for muscle spasms, especially among sufferers of cystic fibrosis or people who are partly or wholly paralysed.

Dr Ameisen says his own experience and that of other patients suggests it can also be used to ease and then destroy an intolerable craving for alcohol. It is so effective, he claims, that alcoholics can go back to social drinking without fear of renewed dependency.

"Mine is the first case in which a course of medicine has completely suppressed alcohol addiction," Dr Ameisen said. "Now I can have a glass and it has no effect. Above all, I no longer have that irrepressible need to drink."

Another doctor who has tested it is Dr Renaud de Beaurepaire of the Paul-Guiraud hospital at Villejuif near Paris.

"I prescribed it to two alcoholics who were at the end of the road," he said. "It was pretty miraculous."

Another alcoholism specialist, Philippe Michaud, is less convinced. "This book has really dropped us in it," he said. "We are being besieged by calls and letters from people who want the same treatment."


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