Substantial evidence suggests that both partial dopamine agents and mixed 5-HT1A/2A receptor drugs independently show significant efficacy in reducing alcohol use in both animals and humans. Aripiprazole, which acts as a dopamine/5-HT system stabilizer, approaches the optimal characteristics sought in medication to be considered for testing in the treatment of alcohol dependence. In this randomised, double-blind, confrontation trial with naltrexone, we aimed to investigate the efficacy of aripiprazole on alcohol-drinking indices. Craving and psychiatric symptom improvements were the secondary end points. Seventy-five alcohol dependent subjects were detoxified and were subsequently randomised into two groups, receiving 50 mg of naltrexone and 5-15 mg of aripiprazole, respectively. Craving (Visual Analogue Scale; Obsessive and Compulsive Drinking Scale) and withdrawal (Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment) rating scales were applied; psychiatric symptoms were evaluated through the Symptom Check List 90-Revised. The number of subjects remained alcohol free for the entire study period (16 weeks) and the number of subjects relapsed were not significantly different in the two groups. The survival function showed that patients treated with aripiprazole remained abstinent from any alcohol amount for a longer time with respect to those treated with naltrexone. As for craving scores, patients treated with naltrexone showed a better outcome. Results from this study globally place aripiprazole at the same range of efficacy of naltrexone, one of the approved drugs used in alcohol relapse prevention. If it could be demonstrated in placebo-controlled trials that aripiprazole is efficacious in decreasing alcohol use, lessening craving, and attenuating psychopathological symptom severity, we will have gained a powerful agent for the treatment of alcohol-dependent subjects.
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