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New Guidelines Include Medications For Treatment of Alcohol Dependence
Medication

Date

Well-established ways to overcome alcoholism include counseling, 12-step recovery programs and addiction treatment centers.

But government statistics show that 75 percent of people receiving conventional treatment for alcohol dependence relapse to heavy drinking within the first year of beginning treatment.

A division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has recently issued best-practice guidelines for the treatment of alcohol dependence. The guidelines, entitled “Incorporating Alcohol Pharmacotherapies Into Medical Practice,” include for the first time the two most recent FDA-approved medications for alcohol dependence, naltrexone for extended-release inject able suspension and acamprosate calcium.

FDA-Approved Medications

The FDA has approved medications for the treatment of alcohol dependence that offer treatment options in addition to traditional 12-step and counseling programs. Medications can act by blocking or interacting with certain receptors or biochemical effects in the brain of a person with alcohol dependence.

Medications are used along with counseling to help a person stop drinking. One of the newly added medications in the HHS guidelines is an extended-release injection taken once a month.

When medications are part of the treatment program along with counseling, a physician must consider whether the patient can reliably adhere to a daily pill regimen. A recent study analyzed the magnitude of challenges faced when prescribing oral pharmacotherapy for alcohol dependence. Over a six-month period, more than 85 percent of patients were non-persistent with oral therapy. Oral therapy has been successful for some patients. However, in many cases in which adherence is a challenge, an extended-release injection that is given once a month can be a helpful treatment option.

“We now know that alcohol dependence is a chronic disease with a potentially life-threatening course,” said Harold C. Urschel III, M.D., chief of medical strategy, EnterHealth LLC. “These new guidelines increase awareness and information about the new medications available for alcohol dependence so that patients and their doctors can consider all the available tools for each individual case.”

As with other complex chronic diseases, like depression, asthma or diabetes, patients, along with their physicians and family members, work together to determine the best treatment option for each person with alcohol dependence.

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