Not all heavy drinkers are alcoholics, but heavy drinking is still a big problem, causing health issues and being responsible for 88,000 deaths a year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers are testing a drug that could curb a drinker's desire to over-imbibe, according to ABC News. The drug is intended to block grehlin, a hormone that makes us desire food and alcohol. Researchers found that when they increased grehlin in volunteers, the volunteers had a greater urge to drink. Scientists want to see if blocking production of grehlin will make people not want to drink, and they came up with an interesting way to test that theory.

Researchers created a fake bar inside the hospital at the National Institutes of Health. They've purposely created a real bar atmosphere to increase the volunteers' urge to drink, but there's no real beer in the taps or alcohol in the bottles behind the bar. However, the smell of real alcohol is used to tempt volunteers into wanting a drink. If a volunteer gives in to the temptation, researchers can see if the new pill counters the urge to drink.

Further tests will be needed to see how effective the drug is at curbing the desire to drink, and if it is, it will be added to the drugs already on the market designed to do the same. But apparently, the drugs that are already available are rarely prescribed, according to WebMD. The reason? Doctors aren’t sure the drugs work. Researchers say they do, particularly if used in conjunction with behavioral treatment from support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or counseling. Only 10 percent of the people who are in some sort of treatment for alcohol problems are taking medication for the problem. So even if this new drug is found to be effective, more information and education is probably in order to encourage doctors to prescribe it.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Researchers test drug to curb heavy drinking
A fake bar inside a hospital is designed to test a drug that may diminish a drinker’s desire, but the chances of doctors prescribing it are low.