In addition, primary care providers, by virtue of their ongoing relationship with patients, may be able to provide continuing treatment over time. Extending the spectrum of care to hazardous drinkers who may not be alcohol dependent could result in earlier intervention and reduce the consequences of excessive drinking. One of the few medication trials actually conducted in primary care sites (Kiritze-Topor et al. 2004) compared standard care to standard care with acamprosate among 422 alcohol-dependent patients recruited and treated for 1 year in general practices. Patients treated with acamprosate and standard care showed significantly greater improvement, with 64 percent reporting no alcohol-related problems for 1 year compared with 50.2 percent of those receiving standard care alone.

The CAGE questionnaire, named for its four questions, is one such example that may be used to screen patients quickly in a doctor’s office. The WHO calls alcoholism “a term of long-standing use and variable meaning”, and use of the term was disfavored by a 1979 WHO expert committee. The easiest way to lookup drug information, identify pills, check interactions and set up your own personal medication records. This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)

As reviewed by Mason and Crean (2007), the European studies of acamprosate typically enrolled participants who had completed inpatient detoxification and then received standard care as outpatients. Extended-release naltrexone, a formulation that only requires a monthly injection, holds the potential to minimize problems with medication adherence. In a 6-month trial, 64 percent of participants received all 6 months of double-blind medication, translating into daily coverage for the entire treatment period (Garbutt et al. 2005). Naltrexone was significantly more effective in reducing the rate of heavy drinking than placebo, an effect most pronounced in those who had achieved abstinence prior to receiving the first injection. In the subset of those who were abstinent for at least 4 days prior to random assignment, extended-release naltrexone also significantly improved continuous abstinence rates (O’Malley et al. 2007). Specifically, 32 percent of those receiving extended-release naltrexone (380 mg) remained abstinent over 6 months compared with 11 percent of those receiving placebo.

For example, if someone usually relapses at the holidays or the anniversary of the death of a loved one, they might decide with their doctor to take it just around that time, Schmidt says. Decreases number of drinking days but does not increase abstinence. Directly observed therapy might be more beneficial but has not been studied in a good randomized trial. Currently available pharmacotherapies only have modest effects, which has spurred efforts to identify treatment responders, new medications, treatment combinations, and methods to enhance adherence.

Impact on your health

The diagnosis is made when drinking interferes with your life or affects your health. This medication blocks the “feel-good” response alcohol causes. Naltrexone may help reduce the urge to drink and prevent excessive alcohol consumption. Without the satisfying feeling, people with alcohol use disorder may be less likely to drink alcohol.

Some of these medications have been around for decades, but fewer than 10% of the people who could benefit from them use them. “You don’t have commercials talking about [these drugs],” says Stephen Holt, MD, who co-directs the Addiction Recovery Clinic at Yale-New Haven Hospital St. Raphael sober house Campus in Connecticut. “And primary care doctors tend to shy away from these meds because they weren’t trained to use them in med school.” Two short-term trials have compared acamprosate and naltrexone. One of these studies compared the combination with either drug alone and with placebo.

What are the treatments for alcohol use disorder?

Like naltrexone, acamprosate seems to work best for people who are able to stop drinking before starting treatment. Currently, research has evaluated alcoholism medications primarily in alcohol-dependent populations. Many individuals, however, drink at harmful levels but do not meet the criteria for dependence and may benefit from medications to augment counseling approaches used with this subgroup of drinkers. Understanding the available treatment options—from behavioral therapies and medications to mutual-support groups—is the first step. The important thing is to remain engaged in whatever method you choose.

Other tests can indicate whether there is damage to the liver, or — in males — reduced testosterone levels. If a blood test reveals that the red blood cells have increased in size, it could be an indication of long-term alcohol misuse. A person may go to the doctor about a medical condition, such as a digestive problem, and not mention how much alcohol they consume. This can make it difficult for a doctor to identify who might benefit from alcohol dependency screening.

Naltrexone For Alcoholism Treatment

The combination was statistically superior to placebo and acamprosate alone and superior (but not statistically) to naltrexone alone. Larger and longer trials of the combination therapy are needed. Medication-assisted treatment accounts for a small percentage of ongoing substance abuse treatment in this country.

  • Nor does the absence of family drinking problems necessarily protect children from developing these problems.
  • Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares strategies for coping with alcohol cravings and other addictions, featuring addiction specialist John Umhau, MD.
  • Future studies should evaluate the efficacy of once-a-month extended-release naltrexone with less frequent counseling and in patients recruited through primary care sites.
  • Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.
  • The system of care that evolved carried with it a “personal” focus with peer teachings spread by word of mouth.
  • To be effective, VIVITROL must be used with other alcohol or drug recovery programs such as counseling.