The Effect of Naltrexone on Alcohol Craving and on Brain Activity During Alcohol Infusion

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Read our disclaimer for details. Identifier: NCT00667771
Recruitment Status : Completed
First Posted : April 28, 2008
Last Update Posted : July 2, 2017
Information provided by:
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)

Brief Summary:

This study will determine whether naltrexone, a medicine used to treat alcoholism, can lessen the craving for alcohol during alcohol withdrawal and examine how the drug affects brain activity during alcohol infusion.

People between 21 and 50 years of age who are right-handed, alcohol-dependent, and have at least one family member with a history of alcoholism, may be eligible for this study.

Participants are admitted to the NIH Clinical Center for 1 month for the following procedures:


  • Medical history, alcohol-use history and family history of alcoholism
  • Physical examination, psychological tests and blood tests
  • Medicine to lessen alcohol withdrawal symptoms, if necessary

Days 1-7

  • Alcohol detoxification
  • Medical and psychological evaluations
  • Assignment to naltrexone or placebo group

Days 7 through 28

  • Drug treatment: Take naltrexone or placebo capsule every morning
  • Additional alcohol-dependence treatment: Cognitive and behavioral therapies and participation in self-help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Weekly questionnaires to measure mood and desire for alcohol
  • Blood tests
  • Alcohol craving stimulation test (day 7): Subjects handle and sniff water and then their favorite alcoholic beverage. They then rate their urge to drink alcohol and their level of anxiety and their heart rate is measured.
  • Alcohol infusion test (day 9): Subjects have an MRI scan during infusion through a vein of saline (salt water), followed by infusion of alcohol. For this test, a catheter (plastic tube) is placed in a vein in each arm, one for administering the saline and then alcohol; the other for drawing blood samples to measure blood alcohol level and body chemistries. Before, during and after the infusion, subjects are asked to respond to questions about their feelings, cravings and mood changes.


Subjects are asked to participate in a 3-month outpatient assessment program involving five outpatient visits (at 1, 2, 4, 8 and 12 weeks after discharge). At each visit, they fill out questionnaires and to take a breathalyzer test and blood and urine tests for drugs. They may continue naltrexone therapy and weekly group therapy sessions during this time. Subjects who do not participate in the assessment program are contacted at home by phone once a week for 1 month and then every other week for the next 2 months to monitor alcohol abstinence.

Condition or disease Intervention/treatment Phase
Alcohol Dependence Alcoholism Drug: Naltrexone Early Phase 1

  Show Detailed Description

Study Type : Interventional  (Clinical Trial)
Actual Enrollment : 70 participants
Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Double
Primary Purpose: Treatment
Official Title: Effect of Naltrexone on Craving and Ethanol-Induced Brain Activity
Study Start Date : April 22, 2008
Actual Primary Completion Date : December 27, 2010
Actual Study Completion Date : April 4, 2011

Resource links provided by the National Library of Medicine

Primary Outcome Measures :
  1. BOLD response during the ethanol infusion challenge

Secondary Outcome Measures :
  1. Self-reported AUQ, PACS, OCDS, POMS and cue-induced craving during the CR session

Information from the National Library of Medicine

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Ages Eligible for Study:   21 Years to 50 Years   (Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

All participants must:

  • be right-handed
  • between 21 and 50 years of age
  • meet the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence (polysubstance abuse is common in younger alcohol-dependent patients, and will not be exclusionary)
  • have a positive family history of alcoholism (one or more first-degree relatives with alcohol problems)

In addition, female participants:

  • must have a negative urine pregnancy test (beta-hCG)
  • of childbearing capability will be required to use a double contraceptive method (such as oral contraceptives, condom with spermicide or intra-uterine device with spermicide) from the start of the study until at least one month following the last dose of NTX.


General exclusion criteria for the NIAAA Intramural treatment program:

  • people who present with complicated medical problems requiring intensive medical or diagnostic management, such as uncontrolled hypertension, gastro-intestinal (GI) bleeding, major organ or body system dysfunction or thyroid disease
  • people who are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • serious neuro-psychiatric conditions which impair judgment or cognitive function to an extent that precludes them from providing informed consent or complying with study procedures, such as psychotic illness, or severe dementia (individuals not competent to give informed consent)
  • people who are unlikely or unable to complete the study because they are likely to be incarcerated while on the protocol
  • people who are required to receive treatment by a court of law or who are involuntarily committed to treatment

Specific exclusion criteria for this protocol include:

  • clinically significant hepatobiliary disease
  • a history of facial flushing in response to alcohol
  • a history of seizures
  • currently psychotic
  • currently abusing opioids
  • use of psychotropic medications (antidepressant, lithium, antipsychotic, anxiolytic, antiepileptic) regularly within the last 4 weeks prior to admission
  • having a positive pregnancy test, contemplating pregnancy in the next 3 months, nursing, or not using an effective contraceptive method (if the participant is of child-bearing potential)
  • a history of allergy or unusual reactions to NTX
  • have received treatment with NTX in the six-month period prior to enrollment
  • presence of ferromagnetic brain aneurysm clips, implanted pacemaker, hearing aid, or any other metallic implant, such as pins, screws, plates, dentures, or non-removable jewelry, in or on the body
  • pronounced claustrophobia

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its identifier (NCT number): NCT00667771

United States, Maryland
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, 9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland, United States, 20892
Sponsors and Collaborators
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

Publications automatically indexed to this study by Identifier (NCT Number): Identifier: NCT00667771     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 080125
First Posted: April 28, 2008    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: July 2, 2017
Last Verified: April 4, 2011

Keywords provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):
Alcohol Dependence

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Alcohol-Related Disorders
Substance-Related Disorders
Chemically-Induced Disorders
Mental Disorders
Anti-Infective Agents, Local
Anti-Infective Agents
Central Nervous System Depressants
Physiological Effects of Drugs
Narcotic Antagonists
Sensory System Agents
Peripheral Nervous System Agents