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UNC Study of Bupropion for Binge Drinking

(UNC IRB# 16-1064)

Efficacy and Safety of the Melanocortin Activator Bupropion in Treating Binge Drinking

About the Study

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is seeking volunteers for a research study testing the efficacy of the FDA approved medication bupropion in reducing binge drinking episodes. Bupropion is currently used to treat depression, but recently, studies have suggested that bupropion might be helpful in the treatment of binge drinking. The study will be “blinded” which means that neither you nor the study staff will know if you are taking bupropion or placebo.

Who is eligible?

We are looking for volunteers who are experiencing any of the following:

  • Regularly drinking alcohol in binges
    • Women- 3 or more drinks in under 2 hours
    • Men- 5 or more drinks in under 2 hours
  • Have tried to cut back on alcohol use but can’t
  • Are noticing that their alcohol use is creating problems
  • Feel they have a problem with drinking

Additionally, to qualify, you should be:

  • Between the ages of 21 and 44
  • Able to read and fill out questionnaires in English
  • Ready to stop drinking completely or greatly reduce your alcohol consumption

You may not qualify if you are:

  • Physically dependent on alcohol
  • Currently pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Suffering from an unstable medical disease that might present a safety concern (e.g., renal insufficiency, cirrhosis, unstable hypertension, diabetes, or seizure disorder)
  • Currently experiencing severe depression or having suicidal thoughts
  • Diagnosed with Schizophrenia or you have been hospitalized for mania or bipolar disorder
  • Psychiatric illness including any psychotic disorder, bipolar disorder, anorexia/bulimia, severe depression, or suicidal ideation
  • Addicted to or abusing other substances (Some occasional use may be acceptable)
  • Currently taking use of anticonvulsants, varenicline, any anti-alcohol medication or any psychotropic medication with the exception of stable doses of antidepressants for one month
  • Court mandated to seek treatment for your alcohol use

What is involved?

  1. Phone Screening: Initially, if you are interested in our study, you should contact the study staff to set up a time for a phone screen. Study staff will review the study information with you, answer any questions you may have, then ask you a few preliminary questions to see if you appear to qualify for the study. If you appear eligible and wish to continue you will be invited for a screening visit.
  2. Screening Visit: The screening visit takes approximately 2-3 hours. At this visit, we will ask you questions and give you questionnaires about your general health, your mental health, your drinking behavior, drug use and your family history. We will do a brief physical exam, urine collection and blood draw.

We will use the information gathered on Screening Day to determine if you are eligible for the study. If you are eligible we will contact and schedule you to come in for a follow up visit where you will receive your study medication, usually within 1-2 weeks of screening.

  • Follow-Up Visits: Over the course of next 3 months, you will participate in 9 follow visits which last about an hour each. At all the visits we will obtain a Breathalyzer reading, check your blood pressure, and ask you to complete questionnaires about your general health, mental health, and drinking behavior. Blood, urine, and saliva will be collected at 3 visits to measure your general health. You will also meet with a counselor at each follow up visit to discuss progress toward meeting your drinking goals.
  • Additional Information: All visits take place at the UNC Neurosciences Hospital in Chapel Hill, Carolina Crossing at 2218 Nelson Highway in Chapel Hill, or the NC Psychiatry Research Center in Raleigh. The study will be “blinded” which means that neither you nor the study staff will know if you are taking bupropion or placebo.


Additionally, you can receive up to $350 depending on your level of participation.

Contact Information

For additional information or to set up a phone screening

Call 919-966-0011 or fill out the online pre-screen.