When Dr. Bankole Johnson presented his idea of a drug to cure alcoholism almost two decades ago, his peers laughed him out of the room. However, no one is laughing now.
Studies conducted by Johnson have shown that Topiramate, a drug normally used to treat epilepsy, along with psychiatric treatment can help alcoholics treat their addiction. The medication helps reduce the cravings and anxiety associated with withdrawal symptoms and can potentially reset the brain’s chemistry.
“Most people assume addiction has to do with moral willpower,” says Johnson. “However there is a biological component to alcoholism- just as there is with diabetes or high blood pressure. It’s a disease of the brain.”
One of the benefits of this medication is that it’s effective on alcoholics that are still drinking; they do not have to be sober. This is important since alcoholics mostly look for help during a crisis. With proper treatment, Johnson feels they do not have to go to AA or rehab. He is also conducting studies to see how this drug works with cocaine and methamphetamine treatment.
Johnson, according to Vitals, graduated from University of Glasgow Medical School and is now chairman of The Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University Of Virginia School Of Medicine.
He was inducted in the Texas Hall of Fame in 2003 for his contributions to science, mathematics and technology. He also received national media attention for his appearance in the HBO original documentary “Addiction” that won a special Emmy Award. He was recently interviewed by Sanjay Gupta in an hour-long program “Addiction: Life on the edge.”
Although the drug hasn’t been officially approved to treat alcoholism, the medical community is in agreement that medications like Topiramate will become a critical piece of helping alcoholics beat their addiction and salvage their lives.