Are There Medications Against Alcohol Addiction?

Alcoholism
is a serious problem for CEOS and entrepreneurs. There’s no clear
answer why, but it’s a good bet that busy business people turn to
alcohol to help them handle mountains of stress that they face each and
every day. 

Over the last few decades, it has been proven that addiction is a
complex disorder that changes the brain in a number of ways. The hard
part for scientists in the field of addiction is coming up with
solutions to this growing problem.

Do Medications offer Hope for Alcoholism?

There are a handful of anti-alcoholism medications on the market
these days, and all can be effective when used properly. However,
medication for alcoholisms should never be considered a quick fix or an
easy answer. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism, don’t make
the mistake of thinking that medication assisted therapy (MAT) will take
the place of traditional drug and alcohol treatment or rehab. 

The following medications can be useful when used in conjunction with treatment -- not instead of treatment. 

Antabuse (Disulfiram), was the first anti-alcoholism
drug to be approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Antabuse has helped millions of people since 1951, but it isn’t without
its problems, and is less widely used today.

The drug, which is prescribed in tablet form, is usually taken once
per day. Antabuse doesn’t reduce cravings for alcohol and it has no
effect on withdrawal symptoms. It works as a deterrent because drinking
even a small amount of alcohol triggers very negative physical
reactions, including nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, accelerated
heart rate. 

The effects of Antabuse, which occur within a few minutes after
drinking, generally last for at least 30 minutes, and may linger for
several hours or even days.

Naltrexone (ReVia) has been used as a treatment for
alcoholism since 1995. It has proven useful because it reduces the
desire to drink, thus minimizing the risk of relapse after treatment. It
is also used for alcoholics who have cut down, but who continue to
struggle and have been unable to give up drinking completely. 

Naltrexone prescribed in tablet form, and is also used to treat
opioid addiction. It is especially effective for individuals who use
both opioids and alcohol. According to Harvard University Medical
School, a monthly injection is currently being studied. Although this
form hasn’t been approved for public use, researchers have found that
injectable Naltrexone reduced heavy drinking by about 20 percent. 

Acamprosate (Campral) has been used in medically
assisted alcohol treatment since the 1980s, but was only approved by the
FDA in 2004. While acamprosate relieves cravings, it doesn’t help with
withdrawal, so other medications are used until alcohol clears the
system -- which generally takes about five days, depending on level of
use. 

Researchers aren’t sure acamprosate is effective for people who are
actively drinking, but for alcoholics who have stopped drinking, it may
help them remain abstinent. It is also useful for individuals who are
also being treated for opioid addiction.

Alternative Medications used to Treat Alcoholism

Alternative medications include anticonvulsant drugs such as topiramate (Topamax), which slows the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that reinforces the brain’s ability to perceive rewards, thus triggering cravings for more alcohol.

Topiramate minimizes cravings, and can also stabilize mood in people who struggle with addiction and bipolar disorder.

Valproate (Depakote), and carbamazepine (Tegetrol), are two other anti-convulsant medications that work much the same way. Baclofen, a muscle relaxant, is new on the horizon, but experimental studies suggest it may reduce cravings.

What the Future May Hold

The future of medicine-assisted treat holds great promise for the treatment of addiction. For example, researchers at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) medical school are evaluating the drug ibudilast, an anti-inflammatory medication that appears to significantly minimize cravings for alcohol.

Researchers think that another new drug, currently known as ABT-436, may block a brain chemical associated with anxiety, stress and addictive behaviors.

Importance of Treatment

It appears that medications may be underused in the treatment of alcoholism, and many experts think that individuals with moderate to severe problem with alcohol abuse should be offered medications as one aspect of a carefully planned treatment program.

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