Medications to help quit alcohol

Medications to help quit alcohol

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Two medications, naltrexone and acamprosate, could help tens of thousands of alcoholics quit drinking, yet the drugs are rarely prescribed to patients, researchers reported.

These medications reduce cravings for alcohol by fine-tuning the brain’s chemical reward system. They have been approved for treating alcoholism for more than a decade. But questions about their efficacy and a lack of awareness among doctors have resulted in the drugs being underused, the researchers said.

George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said that the new study should reassure doctors that naltrexone and acamprosate, while not a silver bullet, can help many patients.

“These drugs are really underused quite a bit, and our findings show that they can help thousands and thousands of people,” said Dr Daniel E Jonas, the lead author of the new study and an associate professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina. “They’re not going to work for everybody. But they can make a difference for a lot of people.”

The research looked only at the effectiveness of the medications in combination with behavioural interventions like counselling and therapy, which is how they are normally used. Jonas said it was unknown whether the drugs would be as effective on their own.