New findings mark a potential leap in treatment strategies for alcoholism. Naltrexone may be useful in the treatment of heavy drinkers who wish to curb or reduce their alcohol consumption, providing a mechanism for controlling excessive binge drinking.
Alcoholism, like all addiction disorders, is not to be romanticized. It can destroy lives, tear families apart, and is a battle that approximately 15.1 million adults face every day, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Treatment of alcohol use disorders is a daunting feat; of those 15.1 million adults, only 1.3 million of them received treatment at a specialized facility in 2015. That statistic may be subject to change, as different treatment options become more widely recognized.
An estimated 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
In 2013, of the 72,559 liver disease deaths among individuals ages 12 and older, 45.8 percent involved alcohol. Among males, 48.5 percent of the 46,568 liver disease deaths involved alcohol. Among females, 41.8 percent of the 25,991 liver disease deaths involved alcohol.
In 2010, alcohol misuse cost the United States $249.0 billion
Published in the journal Addiction, a recent meta-analysis of 64 clinical trials studied the effects of the drugs naltrexone and acamprosate when used in the treatment of alcoholism. The analysis found that when used in conjunction with abstinence before administration, naltrexone had a greater effect on reduced heavy drinking and craving when compared with placebo results. Acamprosate, on the other hand, had a greater effect on maintaining abstinence when combined with detoxification before use in comparison to placebo results.
These findings mark a potential leap in treatment strategies for alcoholism, depending on the needs and goals of individual patients. Naltrexone may be useful in the treatment of heavy drinkers who wish to curb or reduce their alcohol consumption, providing a mechanism for controlling excessive binge drinking. Acamprosate may be of great use to patients by preventing relapse for those who have already stopped drinking, making their recovery easier to continue. The NIAA suggests that combining use of medication with office visits will provide patients with even greater treatment efficacy.
Sacks, J.J.; Gonzales, K.R.; Bouchery, E.E.; et al. 2010 national and state costs of excessive alcohol consumption. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 49(5):e73–e79, 2015. PMID: 26477807