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Advances in Medications Development to Treat Alcohol Use and Psychiatric Disorders: Assessing the Efficacy of Varenicline Tartrate for Alcohol Dependence

Activity Type:

  • On Demand

Release Date: 10/1/2016

Expiration Date: 10/1/2019

  • AMA PRA Category 1 Physician: 0.5
  • Participation: 0.5

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Converging lines of data suggest that nicotinic acetylene receptors play a significant role in the rewarding effects of both nicotine and alcohol dependence, indicating a promising molecular target for the treatment of both disorders. Several preclinical studies found varenicline, a α4β2 nicotinic acetylene partial agonist, effective in reducing drinking in rodents and baboons. In a human laboratory study and small clinical trials, varenicline reduced alcohol consumption and craving in heavy drinking smokers. The present study is the first multi-site study designed to assess the efficacy and safety of varenicline for the treatment of alcohol dependence in smokers and non-smokers. Two hundred patients meeting DSM-IV criteria for alcohol dependence were recruited across 5 clinical sites. Patients received double-blind varenicline (2 mg daily) or matched placebo and a computerized behavioral intervention. Compared to the placebo group, the varenicline group had significantly fewer days of heavy drinking and reduced craving for alcohol. The average treatment effect on alcohol use was similar for smokers and non-smokers. Varenicline was well tolerated by both smokers and non-smokers with few unexpected adverse events. Challenges for further development and approval of varenicline for alcohol dependence will be discussed.

**This content was captured at the 2015 APA Annual Meeting and may reference information from various sources and terminology from previous editions of the DSM.


  • General Member - $6.25
  • Resident-Fellow Member - Free
  • Medical Student Member - $6.25
  • Non-Member - $12.50


Educational Objectives

  • List promising medications to treat alcohol use disorder and co-occurring psychiatric disorders
  • Desribe how effective screening models can be developed and implemented to advance the development of new medications
  • Describe high-priority research questions that will better inform clinical practice

Target Audience

Residents/Fellows, Psychiatrists

Estimated Time to Complete

Estimated Duration: 0.5 hours 
Program Start Date: October 1, 2016
Program End Date: October 1, 2019

How to Earn Credit

Participants who wish to earn AMA PRA Category 1 Credit ™ or a certificate of participation may do so by completing all sections of the course including the evaluation. A multiple choice quiz is provided based on the content. A passing score of 100% must be achieved. Retakes are available for the test. After evaluating the program, course participants will be provided with an opportunity to claim hours of participation and print an official CME certificate (physicians) or certificate of participation (non-physicians) showing the date of completion and hours earned. 


The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The APA designates this enduring material for a maximum of 0.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Faculty and Planner Disclosures


  • Daniel E. Falk, Ph.D., National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Reports no financial relationships with commercial interests. 

Program Planners

  • Tristan Gorrindo, M.D., Director of Education, American Psychiatric Association. Reports no financial relationships with commercial interests. 
  • Samra Sahlu, M.D., University of Saskatchewan. Reports no financial relationships with commercial interests.  
  • Jon Fanning, M.S., C.A.E., Chief of Membership and RFM-ECP, American Psychiatric Association. Reports no financial relationships with commercial interests. 
  • Stephanie Auditore, J.D., Director of Member Product Developmpent, Engagement & Portfolio Management, American Psychiatric Association. Reports no financial relationships with commercial interests. 
  • Ricardo A. Juarez, M.S., Deputy Director, International Development and Engagement, American Psychiatric Association. Reports no financial relationships with commercial interests. 

Hardware/Software Requirements

This internet-based CME activity is best experienced using Internet Explorer 8+, Mozilla Firefox 3+, Safari 4+. This website requires that JavaScript and session cookies be enabled. Certain activities may require additional software to view multimedia, presentation, or printable versions of the content. These activities will be marked as such and will provide links to the required software. That software may be: Adobe Flash, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Windows Media Player.

Optimal System Configuration

  • Flash Player: Adobe Flash Player 10.3+ 
  • Browser: Firefox (latest version), Internet Explorer 8.0+, Safari 7.0+, Microsoft Edge (latest version) or Google Chrome (latest version)
  • Operating System: Windows XP+ or Mac OS X 10.4+ 
  • Internet Connection: 1 Mbps or higher

Minimum Requirements

  • Windows PC: 500-MHz Pentium II; Windows XP or higher; 128 MB RAM; Video Card at least 64MB of video memory; Macromedia Flash Player 10.3 or higher; Sound Card at least 16-bit; audio playback with speakers for programs with video content
  • Macintosh:Mac OS X 10.4+ or higher with latest updates installed; 1.83MHz Intel Core Duo or faster; RAM: 128MB or more; Video Card: at least 64MB of video memory; Sound Card: at least 16-bit; audio playback with speakers for programs with video content

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