A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Citicoline in Patients with Alcohol Use Disorder

Edson S Brown, Erin A Van Enkevort, Alexandra Kulikova, Chastity Escalante, Alyson K Nakamura, Elena Ivleva, Traci Holmes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Alcohol use disorder is a major societal and individual burden that exacerbates health outcomes, decreases quality of life, and negatively affects U.S. healthcare spending. Although pharmacological treatments are available for alcohol use disorder, many of them are limited by small effect sizes and used infrequently. Citicoline is a widely available over-the-counter supplement with a favorable side effect profile. It acts through cholinergic pathways and phospholipid metabolism. The current report examines the effect of oral citicoline on alcohol use, craving, depressive symptoms, and cognitive outcomes in individuals with alcohol use disorder. Methods: A 12-week, randomized, double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled, pilot study of citicoline (titrated to 2,000 mg/d) in 62 adults (age 18 to 75) with alcohol use disorder was conducted. Alcohol use, such as number of drinking days, amount used, and number of heavy drinking days, was assessed using the Timeline Followback method and liver enzymes, while alcohol craving was measured using the Penn Alcohol Craving Scale. A neurocognitive battery (e.g., Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test) and depressive symptoms scale (e.g., Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology Self-Report) scores were also collected. Data were analyzed using a random regression analysis. Results: The primary outcome analysis was conducted in the intent-to-treat sample and consisted of 55 participants (78.2% men and 21.8% women, mean age of 46.47 ± 9.15 years). In the assessment period, the drinking days, on average, represented 77% of the assessed days. Significant between-group differences were not observed on alcohol use, craving, and cognitive or depressive symptom measures. Citicoline was well tolerated. Conclusions: This proof-of-concept study observed that citicoline was well tolerated, but was not associated with a reduction in alcohol use or other outcomes, as compared to placebo. The favorable effects reported with citicoline for cocaine use, cognitive disorders, and other conditions do not appear to extend to alcohol use disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-323
Number of pages7
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • Alcohol Use Disorder
  • Citicoline
  • Clinical Trial
  • Cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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