Hell must be freezing over. For years the accepted rule for alcoholics was complete abstinence from any alcohol and from any drugs (that are not critical to health). The rationale for avoiding pain meds and mood elevators/stabilizers was that a thwarted alcohol addiction could crop up as a pain killer addiction, for example. Also heavy amounts of alcohol can muddy thinking in ways that can take months or a year or more to clear up so the thinking was that allowing other drugs in the system might slow down the brain’s recovery.
But the world has changed. Some previously problem drinkers are now successful moderate drinkers because they are using one of the new drugs in combination with therapy for cognitive behavior changes.
One of our best writers, Sana Silowop, reports on 5 drugs — 3 new, 1 old and 1 being tested in Europe — for alcohol abusers and addicts (properly called alcohol abuse disorder) in our stories New Alcohol Abuse Drugs Gaining Respect and 5 Meds Help Curb Alcohol Abuse.
I’m no fan of taking drugs and I encourage everyone to carefully balance the risks against the benefits before taking medicines. In her stories, Silowop sought out information on adverse events and negative side effects without finding insurmountable ones.
The other day I was speaking with a friend who has struggled with alcoholism. She’s been able to abstain for periods of time, but then she stumbles. I found myself encouraging her to ask her doctor about the new medicines available — some will tamp down the desire for a drink and others will help a binge drinker to have fewer heavy drinking days.
Only about 1 in 9 patients get relief from any one of the new drugs. But with 3 new drugs out and another on the way, those helped by the medications add up to significant relief not only for the problem drinker, but also for the families who are affected by the drinking.
What are your thoughts? Do alcohol abuse medications deserve more consideration? Have you had any experience with them? Please add your comments below.