Switching from conventional treatment to naltrexone can reduce alcoholism

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a prevalent condition in the United States. With over 15.1 million American adults that make up 6.2 percent of the adult population were reported to have AUD back in 2015, it is surprising to note that only 8.3 percent of adults with AUD received treatment in the same year. In fact, alcohol-impaired driving that resulted in accidental deaths had increased by 3.2 percent from 9,943 in 2014 to 10,265 in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In addition, genetic disposition toward drinking along with economic and social factors that trigger extreme levels of drinking in individuals also leads to loss of life due to alcohol-related medical conditions. Besides, it inflicts high medical burden running into billions of dollars annually. Given the ubiquity and easy availability of alcohol, one may wonder what impedes the deliverance of evidence-based treatment that has proven its efficacy in treating AUD in patients.

Unshakeable belief in popular interventions dissuade usage of medicines

Since people tend to ignore the early indications of alcoholism, they often notice them only when the symptoms become pestilential in nature. If an individual has insurance coverage, there is an increased likelihood that he or she would be referred to a residential program including a 12-step recovery model. The immense success of the intervention model in several cases has deeply ingrained the idea that recovery from AUD and alcoholism can be addressed without the use of pharmacotherapy.

Apart from the aversion toward the use of medications, there seems to be a predetermined belief among health care practitioners and rehabilitation centers for alcohol addiction that the use of medication is not necessary to address alcoholism. Consequently, most of the relevant medications remain underutilized despite the increased morbidity and mortality due to AUD.

Reasons behind underutilization of naltrexone

Though naltrexone, a craving inhibitor medication, is normally used to prevent people from taking certain opioids again, it has also proven its efficacy in addressing the craving for alcohol. A 2014 meta-analysis published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) further reinforces the success of naltrexone in:

  • Lowering the instances of returning to the consumption of alcohol.
  • Reducing the number of days indulged in heavy episodic drinking.

One of the primary reasons behind the underutilization of naltrexone is the fact that most of the medical practitioners are not aware of this life-changing medication. Secondly, since medical professionals do not usually staff rehabilitation centers, there is less focus on spreading awareness about this medicine. Thirdly, most of the medical practitioners believe that alcoholism can be alleviated only through the conventional treatment methods like 12-step recovery model.

John Renner, M.D., co-chair of the American Psychological Association (APA) Council on Addiction Psychiatry said, “There is a good evidence showing that if you compare naltrexone to placebo you get much better sobriety. But the general attitude of the community is a very early version of AA that is uncomfortable with medication.”

If enforced correctly, the impact of naltrexone could be huge. Most of the treatment measures for AUD do not encompass normalization of the key regions of the brain that are responsible for triggering excessive and uncontrollable drinking. Even though evidence-based behavioral therapies are part of the treatment components when it comes to AUD, motivational settings centered around self-help groups may not be able to successfully derive long-lasting outcomes that may be possible with the use of naltrexone.

One drink too many and a thousand not enough

In order to assist people suffering from AUD to take control of their lives should be the goal of patients and health care providers. Since alcohol dependence affects the brain circuits in a particular way, medications like naltrexone could assist in reverting to the alcohol-free state.

If you or your loved one has developed an addiction to alcohol, it is imperative to seek professional help. The Alcohol Addiction Helpline of California assists in accessing the best alcohol addiction treatment centers in California that specialize in delivering evidence-based intervention plans. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1715 or chat online with our medical representatives to know more about the alcohol addiction treatment facilities in California.

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