Is Pindolol a Workable Solution for Alcohol Addiction?

Pindolol is the generic name of a drug that lowers blood pressure (brand name Visken). It’s also being promoted as a good drug to use to treat alcohol abuse. There are claims that this drug can reduce alcohol consumption, especially binge drinking, and that it is safe. Are these claims accurate?

News website just made this announcement of an “internationally-significant breakthrough” resulting from a study in Queensland, Australia that found this drug effective in reducing alcohol consumption and binge drinking. The article doesn’t mention that the study was done using mice. A summary of the study on the Wiley Online Library does make this clear. The Wiley summary also mentions that the drug did not improve alcohol consumption after short-term use (four weeks) but only after 12 weeks of administration. Still, the writer at refers to the study results as “groundbreaking.”

One researcher quoted in the Metro article referred to pindolol as “novel, safe and ready.” “Ready” refers to the fact that this drug is already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in humans so the route to approval for alcoholism treatment would be faster. A look at the warnings associated with the drug casts some doubt on whether or not “safe” is a good description of pindolol.

Drawbacks and Warnings

There are significant drawbacks that anyone considering pindolol for alcoholism treatment should know about. Here’s just a few of them:

As noted above, this drug did not lower alcohol use in mice until it had been administered long-term. However, one of the drug’s warnings states that it should not be combined with alcohol as there may be a reaction that causes further lowering of the blood pressure. And since there is no claim that pindolol eliminates drinking or binge drinking in the short-term, many people being treated could suffer from low blood pressure symptoms like dizziness, weakness, lightheadedness and fainting if they continue to drink while taking pindolol.

Drug information on the Stanford University School of Medicine website notes that side effects include impotence and lowered libido. Other side effects include insomnia, swollen extremities, nausea, anxiety, joint pain and muscle cramps.

The drug can interact with caffeine. In America, 83% of adults drink coffee. Caffeine is also found in chocolate and many sodas. Combining caffeine and pindolol can result in high levels of potassium in the blood, causing palpitations, irregular heartbeat, problems breathing, vomiting and other symptoms.

This may be the biggest drawback of all: The FDA warns that stopping this drug suddenly could result in sharp chest pain, irregular heartbeat or heart attack. A person must be weaned off this drug over several weeks and must limit physical activity while coming off the drug.

Drinking man silhouette against background of pills

If pindolol/Visken is ever approved for the treatment of alcoholism, it won’t be the only drug in this category. Antabuse (acamprosate), naltrexone, Campral, and topiramate (a seizure medication) are all used in alcoholism treatment.

True Recovery from Alcoholism

The real breakthrough is the news that recovery from alcoholism or alcohol abuse does not require drugs. At Narconon Ojai and other Narconon rehabilitation centers around the world, we focus on true rehabilitation—returning a person to the abilities he (or she) enjoyed before addiction. This process takes longer than 28 days which is why there is no set time limit for the recovery program at Narconon Ojai. A person graduates when he has overcome the damage done by alcohol, regained his clear thinking and rebuilt his sober living skills.

No medications are ever used as part of recovery at Narconon Ojai, no matter what drug a person was addicted to. Over the fifty-year history of Narconon, they’ve never been needed. Of course, if a person needs a medication to deal with a physical problem, then he would continue that medication on the advice of his doctor.

When a person is truly rehabilitated, he can return home to enjoy a sober, productive life rather than struggle every day to stay sober. Learn how Narconon Ojai can help someone you care about enjoy being sober again. Call us today.


Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.