Oct 10, 2014
Maybe it is a cultural phenomenon, maybe it is our disease at work, but scientists have been searching for an alcoholism medication that works for as long as alcoholism has existed. That claim was made again via yet one more study that does not tell the whole story.
The article’s headline only states that medication is effective, but the subheading then states that the results of a study show medication and psychological treatment are the best way of combatting addiction. This is an important distinction. Without therapy and a support system, the drugs do little at best.
Part of the reason addiction and alcoholism medication is not prescribed often is because of the risks involved. Naltrexone, for example, is one of the two primary medications named in the study. However, what is not stated is that naltrexone results in higher sensitivity and grater likelihood of opiate overdose.
With opiate addiction reaching ever-increasing numbers, this can be a huge and fatal mistake. Many addicts and alcoholics using multiple substances sometimes believe that they have a problem with one substance, but not others. In the event that an addict/alcoholic believes his or her drinking is the problem, but sees no issue with Vicodin they received for a back injury years ago, an alcoholism medication could be a deadly prescription.
Acamprosate, the other medication mentioned by name in the study, only works together with abstinence and support groups. However, because abstinence and support groups are still necessary, why is a medication necessary in the first place?
Further, the numbers used in many studies are based on small windows. For example, even with both naltrexone and acomprosate together with therapy, the average amount of time it took for the users to relapse was 37.32 days within an 84-day timespan. Without diminishing the importance of extra days clean and sober, it is safe to say claiming a treatment method to be effective should be longer than slightly more than a month. When people hear addiction and alcoholism medication can help them stop drinking, the assumption is that such a change will be long-term.
Unfortunately, most people unfamiliar with addiction and alcoholism recovery still think that the drug or alcohol is the issue. It is not. The issue is how addicts and alcoholics think and behave. The substance, as the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous so plainly states, is but a symptom of a much bigger problem. This is also evidenced by the need for continuing with support groups and abstinence whenever such medications are used.
We do not advocate the use of these medications because we do not feel like the benefits outweigh the risks associated with them. Perhaps the most dangerous side effect to an addict or alcoholic is a false sense of security, while simultaneously tampering with how his or her body responds to opiates, especially when addiction manifests itself in multiple substances.
What do you think? Will there ever be a truly effective alcoholism medication? Let us know in the comments section below!