Can Medicine Help People Stop Drinking?

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Although it’s rare for someone with an alcohol use disorder to be prescribed medication, a new review shows that four medications can be helpful in treatment.

“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,” lead researcher Dr. Daniel Jonas, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told CBS News.

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The medications (namely naltrexone, acamprosate, topiramate, and nalmefene), appear to help curb drinking problems when used in conjunction with behavioral intervention by fighting the biology of alcohol addiction, the researchers said in the review published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers analyzed data from more than 120 studies to pinpoint the average number of patients who would need to be treated to see benefit in one patient. One of the drugs, acamprosate, required 12 patients to see benefits in one patient. Another, naltrexone, required 20.

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“Patients with AUDs (alcohol use disorders) should be offered options, including medications, evidence-based behavioral treatments, and mutual support for recovery,” Dr. Katharine A. Bradley of the Group Health Research Institute, Seattle, and Daniel R. Kivlahan of the Veterans Health Administrationwrote in an accompanying editorial. “Moreover, patients should expect shared decision making about the best options for them.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons