Scientists have found that a drug commonly prescribed to ease cravings for cigarettes may also benefit people with alcohol addiction.
Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found that people who both smoked and drank heavily were much less likely to drink alcohol after taking the drug varenicline than those who were given a placebo (dummy pill).
The participants who took varenicline revealed that they experienced fewer cravings for alcohol and also felt less intoxicated when they did have a drink.
Lead author Sherry McKee, associate professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, said that the preliminary study may trigger clinical trials to confirm whether varenicline may be useful for the treatment of alcohol addiction.
"A medication such as varenicline, which may target shared biological systems in alcohol and nicotine use, holds promise as a treatment for individuals with both disorders," she added.
The findings are published in the journal Biological Psychiatry and may have important implications considering the widespread nature of alcohol misuse.
Home Office figures suggest that as many as 1.1 million people in England are dependent on alcohol.