Searching For Effective Medications For Alcohol Addiction
Research for additional medications that may help alcoholics is ongoing and there may be new options on the horizon
August 23, 2017
(press release: summitbehavioralhealth) // New Jersey // Maria Ulmer MA, LMFT, CAADC | Chief Clinical Officer
Alcohol-related issues, resulting from drinking too much, too fast, or too often, are one of the most significant health issues in the U.S. Many Americans struggle with alcohol at some point in their lives. In fact, 17 million people ages 18 and over have an alcohol abuse disorder, and 10% of children live in a home with an adult who has a drinking problem. The good news is that people with an alcohol abuse disorder can benefit from treatment, no matter how severe their drinking may be.
Types of Treatment
There are several different treatment options for alcohol addiction. While most people typically think of 12-step programs and inpatient rehabilitation, they may not know that there are additional options available. Thanks to significant research done over the last six decades, there are actually a variety of treatments available. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to alcoholism treatment, so what works for one person may not work for another, and that many times, a combination of treatments are necessary. That means that it is crucial to understand the options available in order to begin on the path to recovery.
This type of treatment focuses on changing the way a person thinks and behaves, which will help work through the underlying issues that are causing a person to drink. You will find this type of treatment used in inpatient rehab facilities, outpatient programs, and done on an individual basis by therapists.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), other 12-step groups, and non-12-step groups (like SMART Recovery) focus on using peer support to help people with addiction issues.
Some treatments for alcohol addiction include the use of medications to help stop drinking and reduce cravings. There are currently three medications in the U.S. that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of alcoholism.
Research for additional medications that may help alcoholics is ongoing and there may be new options on the horizon. But first, let’s take a look at the currently used medications.
FDA-Approved Medications for Alcohol Addiction Treatment
The following medications are approved by the FDA and have been shown to be helpful to people in reducing or stopping their drinking.
Naltrexone – This medication can help reduce the cravings associated with alcohol and opiate addiction. It is available in pill form and as the monthly injectable Vivitrol shot.
Acamprosate – Also known as Campral, this drug is useful in maintaining abstinence from alcohol. It’s taken in pill form.
Disulfiram – This medication, also known as Antabuse, causes unpleasant symptoms when a patient takes it and then drinks. It is used as a deterrent to drinking.
It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone will respond to medications used for alcohol addiction. But for some people, they can be a useful tool in overcoming alcohol dependence. Research continues to search for more medications that will help those suffering from alcoholism, hoping to find additional options so alcoholics can find a medication that they respond to best.
The Future of Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Progress is continuing in the search for better treatments for alcohol addiction. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) is working to identify key molecular or cellular structures (targets) that may lead to the development of new medications by studying the underlying causes of alcohol addiction in the body and the brain.
Ideally, this would allow healthcare providers to identify the alcoholism treatment that is right for people on an individual basis. The NIAAA and other research organizations are working on identifying genes and other factors that predict how someone will respond to a specific treatment, allowing them to make the best decisions for each individual. These advances would optimize the efficacy of treatments significantly.
Current NIAAA Research
Some medications that are already approved for treating other conditions have shown encouraging results in treating alcoholism and problem drinking.
Varenicline (brand name Chantix), the anti-smoking medication, significantly reduces alcohol cravings and consumption in people with alcohol addiction.
Gabapentin used to treat chronic pain conditions and epilepsy, has shown that it reduces heavy drinking, increases abstinence, and cuts down on cravings for alcohol in those with alcohol addiction.
The anti-epileptic medication topiramate is shown to help reduce problem drinking, specifically for those who have a certain genetic makeup that appears to be associated with the treatment’s efficacy.
Choosing the Right Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
If you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol, you need to seek help from a medical or an addiction professional.They will be able to offer you support and guidance about which types of treatment you should seek. Gather as much information as you can about their suggestions and decide which feels right for you. Know that there are options and that there is a current treatment that will help be able to help you with your alcoholism.
Contact Summit Behavioral Health Today
Contact one of our behavioral health experts. Summit Behavioral Health offers both inpatient and outpatient programs to help people recover from alcohol abuse disorder. We can help you too. Our programs are medically supervised and designed to fit your specific needs and goals. Call our behavioral health professionals today at 1-855-855-9199 to speak to a substance abuse expert about your treatment options.
Other Resources for you:
Learn more about Medicaid-Approved Inpatient Addiction Treatment in our previous blog post