An eminent French cardiologist has triggered an impassioned debate in the medical world over his claim to have discovered a cure for alcoholism.

Dr Olivier Ameisen, an eminent French cardiologist, wrote a book about how he beat his own alcohol addiction by self-administering doses of a muscle-relaxant called baclofen. With this book and the claim, he triggered an impassioned debate in the medical world.

After the widespread media coverage of his book in France, there has been a rush of demands from alcoholics for similar treatment, and the doctors who did prescribe the drug are stunned by the unexpected successes the patients have achieved in recovering from alcohol addiction. However, there are always the skeptical ones who are warning of the dangers of so-called miracle cures.

Dr Ameisen now calls for clinical trials to test his theory that baclofen suppresses the craving for drink.

While working and living in New York, Dr. Ameisen himself has succumbed to the influence of the alcohol. Fearing for his own patients, this is when he gave up his practice and went back to France. Between 1997 and 1999 he spent a total of nine months confined in clinics - but nothing worked. When he went back to France, he heard a story about a cocaine addict who was treated with baclofen for muscle spasms and found it eased his addiction to cocaine. Further investigation uncovered research showing that the drug worked on rats to cut addiction to alcohol or cocaine.

In March 2002, he began treating himself with daily doses of five milligrams.

The first effects he experienced were muscular relaxation and baby-like sleep but soon after he felt a lessening in his desire to drink. He gradually increased his daily dosage to a maximum of 270mg and felt cured. He still takes 30 to 50mg a day.

He even says that he can now have a glass of drink with no effects and that he no longer has the irrepressible need to drink.

Although the drug is not licensed for treating alcoholism, many specialist have closed their eyes over the fact and prescribed the drug to those patients who were at the end of their roads. They had pretty miraculous results.

One of the doctors from Geneva, Dr Pascal Garche put his 12 patients on baclofen, of whom seven came through reporting marked improvements. He says that these findings should not be ignored.

However, many specialists believe that Dr Ameisen's theory is obscuring the complex nature of alcoholism and that it is irresponsible to encourage people to think that there is a miracle cure for alcoholism.
Comprehensive tests are needed to determine how this drug acts, if it is effective and at what dosage, and its longer-term effects.