Binge Drinking (BD) is often considered to be recurrent alcohol abuse amongst adolescents and young adults. However, the close link between adolescence and impulsivity has led many authors to define BD as intoxication-seeking behaviour. Medications may sometimes be justified because of the major short-term and long-term risks that underlie the most severe BD-related behaviours. The most common consequences in the long run are the occurrence of alcohol dependence, psycho- and neurodevelopmental disruptions and alcohol liver disease. To understand the specificities of BD among other forms of alcohol addiction, this article is based on a two-headed conception of alcohol dependence: on one hand, psychological dependence, which refers to the behavioural habituation of alcohol intake, clinically results in craving and is neurobiologically supported by the reward system, particularly the dopaminergic mesolimbic pathway (MLP); on the other hand, physical dependence, which refers to the pharmacological tolerance induced by chronic alcohol intake, results in Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS) and is neurobiologically supported by the imbalance between GABA and Glutamate-NMDA neurotransmission. Medications for psychological dependence include anticraving drugs, which all act by regulating MLP. Medications for physical dependence on alcohol include GABA-A and perhaps GABA-B agonists and some NMDA antagonists. In practice, many alcohol- dependence treatments seem to have a dual action.
This article proposes an attempt to classify current and forthcoming medications for alcohol addiction based on this two-headed approach to treating alcohol dependence. Drawing from this classification, specific therapeutic schemes for treating BD are proposed, with currently approved alcohol medications and possible future treatments. These schemes are justified by recent literature on the subject and propose to prioritize pure anticraving medications, taking into account the clinical specificities of BD. Furthermore, these schemes also mention harm-reductive neuroprotective and hepatoprotective strategies, which could be included in the arsenal of possible medications for BD in the near future.
Keywords: Addiction, alcohol, binge drinking, craving, impulsivity, adolescence, pharmacotherapy, alcohol withdrawal syndrome, mesolimbic, neuroprotective, hepatoprotective, naltrexone, topiramate, fenofibrate, antagonists, ondansetron, Disulfiram, Benzodiazepines, Antiglutamatergics, hallucinosis