Alcoholism is a major problem in the United States, with roughly 80,000 people dying each year from alcohol-related causes. But now there’s some good news: researchers have found that several medications can actually help curb people’s desire to consume alcohol.
Researchers in the United States have found that taking one of several different kinds of medications — including acamprosate (Campral), naltrexone (Revia), nalmefene (Selincro), and topiramate (Topamax) — when paired with psychological counselling can have a significant impact on one’s desire to consume alcohol.
According to Dr. Daniel Jonas, the study’s lead researcher and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina, it’s time for medical professionals to consider new strategies when confronting alcohol abuse, which has long been a major health issue in the U.S.
“Most people with alcohol use disorders aren’t getting any treatment, and only about 10 percent are getting a medication as part of their treatment,” Jonas said.
It’s worth noting that, while all of the medications can help people stop drinking, few were designed with that purpose in mind. For example, nalmefene is used to relieve pain, while topiramate is typically employed to prevent seizures.
That’s why Jonas says it’s important people combine these medications with counselling when trying to curb an alcohol addiction.
“We don’t know if they should be used alone,” Jonas said. “They are always studied in conjunction with a psychological intervention, whether it’s [Alcoholics Anonymous] or cognitive behavioral therapy.”
Dr. Katherine Bradley, who worked with Dr. Jonas in producing a report that was recently published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, says it’s time for people with alcohol addictions to consult their doctors about medications that can help them curb their desire for alcohol.
“The decision of which alcohol treatment to choose should be the result of discussions between patients and their clinicians that take into account patient values, preferences and goals,” Bradley said.