New Medication Could Aid Alcoholics

Reducing alcohol intake is the goal for many people throughout the country. Unfortunately, this is not always an easy thing to accomplish. In fact, alcohol is one of the most abused drugs in the world. So, in order to help people reduce the amount of alcohol they consume, a group of scientists have developed a medication that shows promise. Nalmefene is a medication that has shown effective in clinical trials in getting heavy drinkers to reduce their alcohol intake. This is promising because cutting back on alcohol is especially hard for heavy drinkers.

“The goal is to decrease alcohol consumption, and in our systematic review of randomized controlled trials of the drug, we found that there was a significant reduction in the number of heavy drinking days and a decrease in total alcohol consumption compared with placebo, so we feel that nalmefene constitutes a new pharmacological treatment paradigm for alcohol-dependent patients who are unable to reduce alcohol consumption on their own,” explained Meelie Bordoloi, MD, psychiatry resident, University of Missouri, Columbia.

Medically-assisted intervention is not new when it comes to addiction. Heroin abusers can take methadone or suboxone, and there are several medications in the works for cocaine addicts. Alcohol is one of the most lethal drugs because it effects the liver, stomach, mouth and esophagus. Alcoholics who suddenly stop drinking can also suffer from seizures or even death. These medical risks make it complicated for treatment counselors and medical professionals to treat. A medication like nalmefene could help solve these problems.

While nalmefene does not prevent alcohol intake, like Antabuse (a medication that blocks the effects of alcohol and makes the person sick if they consume alcohol while taking the drug), it does minimize the urge to over drink. Experts are hoping that this will allow heavy drinkers to lower tolerance and allow for further intervention that would lead to alcohol abstinence.

The treatment field is an ever changing environment that is being shaped by new innovations and approaches. New medications like nalmefene are likely to change the landscape of treatment even further.

Homeless Alcoholics Commonly Start Drinking as Children

A new study at Bellevue Hospital in New York City has shed light on the life of a homeless alcoholic and found that they typically begin drinking as children. 100% of the patients enrolled in the study began drinking at a young age, becoming alcohol-dependent soon after.

“For people who have homes and jobs, it is difficult to imagine the level of despair these people experience day in and day out, or the all-consuming focus on getting the next drink that overrides even the most basic human survival instinct,” said study author Dr. Ryan McCormack of New York University School of Medicine.

McCormack, along with his team, interviewed 20 alcohol-dependent, homeless patients who had four or more annual visits to Bellevue Hospital’s emergency department for two consecutive years. Most end up in the ER because of public intoxication.

Of the 20 patients, 13 reported abuse in their childhood homes, 13 had alcoholic parents, 19 left home by age 18, one was married, and none of the patients had jobs. The three interviewees who were military veterans said that military life amplified their alcohol use.

All 20 patients cited their alcoholism as the primary reason for living on the street. According to the report, 11 had definitive psychiatric diagnoses in the mood, psychotic, or anxiety spectrums. Every patient had entered detoxification programs in the past.

The researchers added that within a year of being interviewed for the study, one quarter of the patients had died as a direct result of their alcoholism. Alcohol-attributed causes of death included liver or lung cancer, vehicular trauma, assault, and hypothermia, noted the report.

“As their capacity to envision a future diminishes, they increasingly lose motivation for personal recovery,” said McCormack. “An alcoholic is first a human being. We hypothesize that more accessible, lower-barrier, patient-centered interventions that support alcohol harm reduction and quality of life improvement can be translated into the emergency department setting and this population.”