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Baclofen could help to treat stuttering

Friday May 12th, 2017

A drug that is being tested for treating treat alcohol dependence could also help to stop stuttering, Dutch doctors report today.

Baclofen, a muscle relaxant, has only recently been tried as a treatment for alcohol dependency and results of its success have been mixed.

However, a Dutch study has now raised the possibility that the drug could also help people with stutters after it appeared to provide relief to an alcoholic on a medical trial.

A report in BMJ Case Reports reveals that the potential impact of baclofen on stuttering came to light when a 61-year-old man, who was taking part in a clinical trial to test its efficacy on alcohol dependency, also found that his speech improved.

The participant, who had had drink problems for 20 years, had sleep problems and a history of depression. He also stuttered, which he attributed to the fact that Dutch was not his native language.

During the trial, he took a gradually increased dose of baclofen every day for 10 weeks and doctors noticed that when he had reached a daily dose of 90mg his stutter stopped.

However, the drug does was significantly reduced when the participant complained of sleepiness, stiff muscles and heavy legs. Afterwards, he began drinking again and his stutter also returned.

He was advised to continue taking 90mg of baclofen a day and he stopped drinking and the stutter disappeared.

“This case illustrates the potential efficacy of a high-dose baclofen treatment for patients,” writes Esther Beraha, of the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

However, they also point out that alcohol might have affected his speech patterns because the man’s stuttering always accompanied excess drinking.

Nevertheless, they suggest that there are potentially plausible biological explanations for their finding, one of which is that muscle tension is a factor in stuttering, and therefore the muscle relaxant properties of baclofen could be acting on the respiratory muscles and/or those in the neck and face.

Beraha E, Bodewits P, van den Brink W et al. Speaking fluently with baclofen? BMJ Case Reports 12 May 2017; doi:10.1136/bcr-2016-218714 [abstract]

Tags: Europe | General Health | Pharmaceuticals

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