Study results offer guidance in treatment

While many treatment approaches were found helpful, the authors report that the patients who were most successful in abstaining from alcohol 16 weeks after treatment were those prescribed naltrexone under medical management and those participating in a multi-session program of alcohol counseling delivered by a behavioral specialist.

The paper appears in the May 2 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association and reports on the largest clinical trial ever conducted of pharmacologic and behavioral treatments for alcohol dependence.

"The most robust finding in the study is that those receiving any medication did much better than those who received no pills at all," says The Scripps Research Institute's Professor Barbara Mason, an author of the paper. "This should be a wakeup call. With less than one percent of those seeking help for alcohol dependence receiving a prescription, medication is underutilized. Medication for alcoholism can offer patients an advantage for their recovery, especially in a real-world setting."

Another important aspect of the study, says Mason, is that it offers new safety data on the prescription drugs used in the trial, naltrexone and acamprosate, which were administered at higher-than-standard doses. "We had no serious drug-related events during the course of the research," she says. "That fact should offer prescribing physicians a high degree of comfort."

About eight million individuals in the United States currently meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence, also called alcoholism, a leading preventable cause of morbidity and mortality and a major contributor to health care costs, according to the paper's background information. In primary care settings, the prevalence of alcohol use disorders ranges from 20 percent to 36 percent.

While several behavioral treatment programs and drugs now approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had been shown effective for treating alc

Contact: Keith McKeown
Scripps Research Institute

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