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Combating Alcoholism with Medication, and Investigating Powdered Alcohol

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Combating Alcoholism with Medication, and Investigating Powdered Alcohol

As new treatments for alcohol are developed, a dangerous new trend is rising

Recently, the Wall Street Journal had a great article on drinking: A Prescription to End Drinking which contained a list of the current medications used in treating alcohol addiction. (That was whiskey glass.jpghelpful for lay people like me who cannot seem to keep them straight!) The last three in the list are medications used for other disorders that “show promise” for treating those suffering from alcoholism.

  • Naltrexone: Kills the buzz some get from drinking
  • Acamprosate: Reduces irritability and other withdrawal symptoms
  • Disulfiram: Creates unpleasant symptoms after drinking

Drugs approved for other purposes that show promise with alcoholism include:

  • Gabapentin (for epilepsy, pain): Lessens anxiety and other withdrawal symptoms
  • Topiramate (for epilepsy, migraines): May limit impulsiveness
  • Varenicline (for quitting smoking): Blocks receptors associated with cravings

I read recently that more people suffer from alcohol abuse today than are addicted to drinking. And this article holds that because people have different reasons behind their drinking (“a complex mix of genetics, life experiences and differences in how the brain handles stress and seeks rewards), it’s crucial that treatment be tailored to the individual. The example given is that a person who drinks alone is different from the person who is a huge social drinker and goes overboard. As a result, the article points out—which Dr. Mark Gold has stressed—that evidence-based treatments are crucial.

To buttress her arguments, the writer states that the changes to the DSM over the years show how much the thinking about alcohol treatment has changed. Instead of citing two extremes (getting drunk vs. being addicted) as in the past, the DSM-5 has a range of severity relating to alcohol-use disorder. Ideally, experts say, drinkers on the mild end of the spectrum will seek help earlier and never move to the severe end.

For a long time, problem drinkers mainly had 12-step programs as the solution to their problem. Today a range of treatments are available, including programs that advocate the use of medication like those listed above. In addition, experts say that motivational interviewing has a place, where counselors stress positive reasons for stopping drinking and attempt to empower patients to stop. Cognitive therapy helps as well.

This article is timely when you think of all the gizmosfor drinking and different forms of alcohol being developed. This was the year we saw palcohol, or powdered alcohol come to market. Again I defer to Dr. Gold, who said:  “This stuff was apparently (and very quietly) approved by the government, then was un-approved, the government stating it  “made an error.” Still, I suspect we will see it in some form sooner or later…..and yes, it can also be snorted, and most likely injected.”

It’s another enticement for college kids to drink excessively, and another way for people to sneak alcohol into venues where it’s not allowed (like treatment centers). I’d venture that it’s also a way for drinkers to sneak a drink more easily. I wonder what would happen if a person added it to someone’s drink—would that lead to alcohol poisoning more quickly?

One thing is for sure, we’ll be seeing problems related to this powdered alcohol once it is available to the public.

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