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.