03 Apr 2017

Can Science Treat Alcoholism?

There is now strong evidence that medication may aid in alcoholism recovery and treatment. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association analyzed more than 120 studies and found that four medications (naltrexone, acamprosate, Topamax, and Selincro) helped alcoholics reduce how much they drink. However, in an odd twist, the oldest alcoholism drug approved in the United States, disulfiram or otherwise called Antabuse, didn’t actually prevent a return to drinking.

This comes as welcome news to the 18 million Americans , not to mention their friends and families. Of these 18 million people, only a third will ever seek out treatment and less than 10 percent will receive medication.

There are still lingering doubts about the effectiveness of these medications, but they are not being used enough primarily because physicians typically refer patients to specialists like drug counselors and community programs, which are not able to prescribe medication. This is a troubling conundrum since nearly 3.3 million people died from harmful alcohol use in 2012, and alcohol abuse increases the risk of contracting more than 200 diseases.

Still, medication is only one part of alcoholism treatment. Beyond the physical addiction to alcohol, people who abuse or depend on alcohol have deep rooted issues that need to be addressed and worked through in order to create a solid emotional foundation for sobriety. The study in the Journal of the American Medical Association can increase the availability and use of these four medications, but it is important not to treat alcohol abuse as a one-pill solution. People battling alcohol dependency and addiction still must view their struggle as a multifaceted problem that will take a lot of time and many tools to treat, and most importantly, to instill long-term success without relapse.