Alcohol + Caffeine, A New Rx?

A mixture of alcohol and caffeine may do better than most drugs now used to prevent brain damage after a stroke, a team of Texas researchers says.

"The striking thing to me isn't just that it's effective but how great the effect is. It really is very dramatic," said Dr. James Grotta.

Grotta, Dr. Jarok Aronowski and lab technician Roger Strong were set to announce their findings Thursday at the American Neurological Association meeting in Seattle.

In studies using rats, the researchers at the University of Texas at Houston found that a mix of alcohol and caffeine was more effective than most drugs designed to break up the blood clots than can kill brain cells in stroke patients. The drugs generally are given to those admitted to a hospital within three hours of a stroke.

Strokes can occur when the blood flow in the brain is disrupted. They can cause paralysis, speech problems or memory lapses.

Strong was the one who suggested an alcohol and caffeine prescription. He based his hunch on studies that have shown moderate alcohol consumption can reduce risk of stroke, as well as studies that demonstrate the way caffeine stimulates certain parts of the brain.

Alcohol by itself, they found, made the stroke damage worse. Caffeine alone did nothing. But they discovered that when the two were combined and taken within two hours after the stroke, they were more effective than most drugs used for the same purpose.

Grotta emphasized that the findings are based on one study done with rats, and said much more research would be needed before the therapy could be used on humans.

Getting funding for further studies could be difficult, he said.

"Obviously, no pharmaceutical company is going to fund a study of alcohol and caffeine since they won't be able to make money from those substances."