A drug which faced controversy over its unlicensed use in treating alcohol addiction might also be useful in stuttering, researchers have found.
In a case report of a 61-year-old man who took part in a trial of baclofen for alcohol dependence, doctors noted that after taking the drug his stutter disappeared (BMJ Case Reports online, 11 May 2017)
Baclofen is a muscle relaxant which in recent years has anecdotally been reported to show impressive results in patients with alcohol addiction, although trial results have been mixed.
Although only one case, the Dutch researchers said there are plausible biological mechanisms for the finding, including muscle relaxant and anti-anxiety effects of the drug, and that it should be investigated further.
During the trial, the patient had slowly increased the dose of baclofen he was taking to 90mg when the doctors noted his stutter — which he had put down to finding the right words to speak in a language which was not his mother tongue — was no longer an issue.
After continuing to increase the dose to 120mg, side effects of sleepiness, stiff muscles and heavy legs became apparent and the trial doctors tapered his dose back down to zero and the stutter came back.
After drinking problematically once more he was advised to start taking baclofen at the 90mg dose and it was noted he began to speak fluently again.
He also stopped drinking for a prolonged period, the researchers said.
While it raises the possibility of a new treatment option for stuttering, the researchers point out that as his stuttering was always alongside excessive drinking, alcohol might have directly affected his speech patterns.