Using Topamax to Treat Alcohol Dependence

Nowadays a big number of programs are oriented towards the treatment of alcohol addiction and although many of them seem to be successful, patients often are not able to get rid of this disease without the help of certain medications.

Topamax medication has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a means to prevent and reduce the frequency of seizures and migraine attacks. Despite the fact that the FDA has not approved other Topamax uses, the medication is often prescribed off-label for a variety of other medical conditions, such as weight loss, eating disorders, and alcoholism. A number of Topamax reviews contain data about the successful use of Topamax in alcohol treatment. While it is still not known how exactly Topamax works to treat alcohol dependence, trials have shown that the drug decreases cravings for alcohol and increases people’s ability to abstain from alcohol. Researchers that studied the relation that exists between Topamax and alcohol, state that the possible medication’s effects on a person with alcohol dependence are the following:

  • With the help of Topamax GABA receptors are stimulated

GABA is a neurotransmitter that reduces the activity of nerve cells or nerves, thus “calming” the brain. The brain of an alcohol-addicted person relies on alcohol that simulates GABA production, so stimulation of GABA receptors by Topamax medication has a calming effect on the brain instead of alcohol.

  • Glutamate receptors are blocked

Glutamate is suppressed by alcohol, which leads to the reduction of stress level. When the body does not receive alcohol that calms down the brain, this effect needs to be replaced by a medication. In this case, by Topamax.

  • The levels of dopamine whose production is usually stimulated by drinking, are lowered

Another relation between Topamax and alcohol consists in the ability of Topamax to reduce dopamine levels that are boosted by alcohol. As the medication is able to restore normal GABA activity and glutamate levels, many people who take Topamax and alcohol are able to considerably reduce the quantity of consumed alcohol or quit drinking at all.

Topamax dosage that is necessary for the treatment of alcohol dependence should be carefully determined and because of the fact that Topamax can cause addiction, the treatment should not be ended abruptly, but with a gradual lowering of the dose.
The usual Topamax dosage for the start of the treatment is 50mg a day split into a morning and evening dose of 25 mg each.
According to some studies, the effective dose that leads to alcohol withdrawal is 75mg a day.

As Topamax side effects can be quite severe and the body needs some time to get used to the medication, the dose should be increased gradually each week.

Do not take Topamax longer than it takes to ameliorate alcohol withdrawal symptoms as the medication can cause addiction.
Although Topamax is prescribed for alcohol addiction treatment and is, therefore, taken while the person might still consume alcohol, the interaction between Topamax and alcohol still exists. Taking Topamax and alcohol can cause the aggravation of usual side effects of the drug, so your doctor should determine the necessary Topamax dosage very carefully.

As Topamax uses are not limited to the ones described here, the drug can influence other conditions a person might have and cause some unexpected side effects, that is why the medication should be taken only after a consultation with a healthcare provider and under their supervision.

Topamax withdrawal symptoms include a variety of manifestations and depend on a number of aspects, such as the dosage a patient has been taking, the length of the treatment, how fast they tapered, as well as other aspects.
The following Topamax withdrawal symptoms are possible with regard to the above-mentioned factors:

  • Anxiety – some people reported feeling anxious after dosage reduction or withdrawal from Topamax medication. This feeling could last for quite a long period if the patient used a high Topamax dosage for a long time.
  • Anger – there have been reports of people feeling anger that was not characteristic for them before the treatment or before they started reducing the dosage.
  • Increase of appetite – Topamax is known to have appetite reduction and weight loss as its side effects, but during the withdrawal period, your appetite might increase. This should stop once you completely discontinue the treatment.
  • Reduced concentration – some people might experience difficulty concentrating and focusing at the start of withdrawal period. This symptom is also characteristic of those who combine Topamax and alcohol. This combination often leads to loss of concentration, and confusion.
  • Depression – even if a person did not have any signs of depression before they started taking the drug, this condition might appear during the treatment as well as the period of withdrawal. Depression is one of possible Topamax side effects.
  • Possibly the most common of Topamax withdrawal symptoms is dizziness. This sensation might accompany you during the first weeks of the treatment as your body is getting used to the medication, as well as after you quit as the body learns how to function without the drug.
  • Fatigue – many Topamax reviews mention fatigue as another common side effect during the withdrawal period. You might feel unusually tired and sleepy for the first several weeks after you stop taking the medication.
  • Nausea – a common reaction that occurs when you stop taking most medications. This side effect usually passes after a week or two.
  • Headaches – many people who had not suffered from headaches before they started taking Topamax, reported that they experienced headaches after they quit the medication. This symptom does not usually last long.

There are also other Topamax withdrawal symptoms that have different degrees of intensity depending on the dosage the patient was taking: mood swings, insomnia, irritability, panic attacks, vision changes, weight gain and others. Usually these symptoms disappear in a few weeks after the patient stops taking the medication, but if they last for a long period of time or become very bothersome, do not hesitate to contact your doctor for advice.