Topiramate (Topamax)

Topiramate (Topamax) is one of the drugs that was created for the treatment of one condition before doctors realized that it could also be useful in treating other conditions. The drug was first development for the treatment of epilepsy and other seizure conditions. However, today it is also prescribed for the treatment of weight loss and migraines.

Apart from its usual functions, the drug can also be effective in the treatment of various types of substance use disorders - particularly addiction and alcohol use disorders. This function was discovered recently and is still under study.

Understanding Topiramate

According to the FDA - the Food and Drug Administration - topiramate is a sulfate substituted monosaccharide, or a sugar sulfamate. The drug was originally created to help in the treatment of the seizures experienced by epileptics. Currently, the drug is available through various formulations and brand names, such as Topamax, Trokendi XR, and Qudexy XR. In this article, we are going to focus on topiramate (Topamax).

Apart from its various functions, topiramate is also effective in the way it affects GABA - gamma aminobutyric acid - pathways throughout the human body. The GABA neurotransmitter works to increase the central nervous system's excitability. It is now believed that topiramate can have positive effects on individuals who might be addicted to substances like cocaine and alcohol.

Medical News Today reports that alcohol use disorders are the 5th most common type of condition across the globe. In the United States, alcoholism is the 3rd most common condition being experienced by people.

To reduce the rates of alcohol abuse and addiction, medical researchers have been looking for ways to help people who are suffering from these conditions. They have found that topiramate (Topamax) is effective in delivering the right solution.

Today, Topamax (the brand name drug) and topiramate (the generic counterpart of this drug) work to produce various beneficial effects on the central nervous system. Due to this mode of action, the drugs are currently under study as doctors try to understand how they can have a positive effect on drug addiction and alcoholism.

Topamax is like many other addiction treatment medications in the sense that it comes with various benefits and drawbacks. All these benefits will vary widely depending the current state of health of the patient who is put on this medication.

Topiramate (Topamax) for Addiction Treatment

Topamax is generally prescribed for the treatment of seizure disorders like epilepsy. The drug can also be effective at reducing and preventing migraine headaches - but only among adults.

At the moment, topiramate (Topamax) has not yet received federal approval for use in the treatment of cocaine and alcohol use disorders. Even so, research studies show that the drug holds great promise as an effective addiction treatment.

The drug is available in the form of capsules and tablets. If you are put on this medication, you will typically receive a dose ranging from 15 milligrams to 200 milligrams. Your prescription dose will largely depend on the severity of the condition that you are suffering.

After ingesting topiramate, its effects will last between 19 and 23 hours. This will largely depend on the half-life duration of the dose that you got. Due to the chemical composition of the medication, anywhere between 50 and 80 percent of it would be excreted from your body through urine. The excreted drug would be unchanged.

This effectively means that you would not require blood level monitoring because topiramate (Topamax) cannot accumulate in your bloodstream. However, topiramate can interact with other medications.

To this end, if you are planning on doing a drug trial involving this medication, it is recommended that you inform your doctors and addiction treatment professionals about every other medication that you might currently be taking.

Due to the way it affects drug addiction and alcohol use disorders, topiramate is currently being considered for use in the treatment of other substance use disorders involving cocaine and nicotine dependence.

Other research studies are also trying to find out whether this drug could be effective in the treatment of mood disorders, nerve pain disorders, diabetes, and tremors. This is particularly because these conditions tend to occur among people who have been abusing alcohol for a long time.

Topiramate (Topamax) and Alcoholism

Ongoing studies on topiramate have come up with combined results that have identified the different ways in which this medication can be useful for people who are struggling with alcohol use disorders. Participants in these studies have reported that they experienced improvements in various areas, chiefly:

  • Consumption of fewer alcoholic drinks per given day
  • Fewer days of ongoing heavy drinking
  • Improvements from heavy to moderate drinking
  • More days of sobriety from alcohol

If you have been abusing alcohol for a long time, you will eventually find that you have developed dependence and tolerance to the substance. This is because alcohol would have started altering the normal chemical processes in your brain.

The chemicals of the brain that are commonly referred to as neurotransmitters work to regulate the various processes of the brain. In particular, they affect the processes that control your motor functions, reasoning abilities, and emotions.

After several years of heavy alcohol use, the chemical pathways of your brain would become distorted and heavily dependent on the effects of alcohol. As a result, your brain might no longer be able to secrete neurotransmitter chemicals at normal levels. Ongoing alcohol abuse also affects GABA - gamma aminobutyric acid - as well as dopamine, and glutamate.

Due to your ongoing drinking, your brain would secrete GABA at lower than normal levels as well as glutamate at higher levels. Taking topiramate (Topamax) can help your brain alter its neurotransmitter levels. The drug works by increasing the total number of GABA that your brain secretes while simultaneously decreasing the secretions of glutamate and dopamine.

Getting Help

When you take topiramate for a long time, it will have effects on the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain. This will lead to a decrease in the total number of your heavy drinking days. The drug can also cause you to experience a reduction in your alcohol cravings, as well as increase the total number of days that you can go without consuming even a drop of alcohol.

However, topiramate (Topamax) is still being studied to show its efficacy in the treatment of alcohol use disorders and various other addictions. If you check into an addiction treatment program, you may not receive a prescription for it. However, you still need to do so because it is the only way you are going to be able to overcome your addiction.


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