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Alcohol Cessation Medication Must Be Combined With Counseling

Posted Sep 29 2008 4:53pm

“Magic Bullet” Requires Commitment and Ongoing Consultative Therapy

Breaking an alcoholic or problem drinker’s resistance to treatment is a critical dilemma that many have experienced. Medical experts have developed drugs to treat the symptoms of withdrawal, the cravings that drive so many to drink and the depression that so often is related to alcoholism. The medical community is far better equipped today to deal with harmful alcohol addictions then anytime in history. Yet the struggle to accept the fact that a serious problem exists is still preventing millions from seeking help.


Programs are available to assist those suffering from alcohol addictions that combine valuable psychotherapy consultation with medications that alleviate the anguish of early recovery impulses to consume alcohol. Recovering alcoholics and excessive drinkers alike can now increase their odds of successful rehabilitation from destructive alcohol reliance.


Medications alone will not fix the problem. A full treatment program that offers physical, emotional and spiritual healing is the key to the long term objective of personal well being and once again leading a rewarding life.


Baclofen, Naltrexone, Campral are just a few of the Anti-craving medications approved by the FDA for use in treatment of alcoholism and problem drinking. Some have referred to them as the “magic bullet” to treating alcohol addiction and this simply isn’t true. While quite effective at quelling the urge to drink, medication alone will not sustain abstinence or modify drinking behavior over the long term.


These anti-craving medications are not to be confused with Disulfiram, more commonly known as Antabuse or Antabus. Used primarily for chronic alcoholism, Antabuse will produce an acute sensitivity to alcohol. Some 5-10 minutes after drinking, the patient may experience the effects of a severe hangover for a period of 30 minutes up to several hours. Symptoms include flushing of the skin, accelerated heart rate, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, throbbing headache, visual disturbance, mental confusion, postural fainting and circulatory collapse. People have been known to die when taking Antabuse. Needless to say anyone thinking of using Antabuse should follow strict physician guidelines.


No, alcohol cessation medications are more tolerable for the excessive drinker who may require assistance in controlling the cravings associated with ending alcohol use. There are some potential side effects, but because of the number of anti-craving medications available today, there are alternatives to try. Of course as with any medication, one needs to be closely monitored by their physician when undergoing this type of treatment. Your medical professional will assist you in finding the correct dosage and protocol for effective results.


Starting out with smaller dosages is always prudent to judge one’s tolerance and sensitivity to the chosen medication. Sometimes a combination of alcohol cessation medications will prove to be more helpful to the patient. Finding what works best for the patient is vital for long term benefits. If these medications are being used on a patient who is looking to abstain from drinking altogether, they may only need the medication until the strong compulsions to drink have subsided.


If someone is only modifying their drinking behavior, then taking the alcohol cessation drugs can be ongoing. Generally, if someone wants to slow their consumption levels or bring themselves back to social drinker status, they will take the drug or drug combination 1 hour prior to drinking. Naltrexone and Baclofen have been found to work well together.


A sample dosage would be as follows - Baclofen 1/2 tablet 3 times a day for several days, then going to 1 tablet 3 times a day. After 4 to 6 weeks or so they would go to the ‘just prior to drinking dose plan’ of 1 [10mg] tablet. With their medical professionals help they will find and use what works best for them - always under their close guidance. Baclofen has shown to not only curb craving, but have a subtle calming effect as well.


Specifically, when it comes to alcohol modification, the patient should undertake consultative therapy with this medication. There is more going on in someone’s life when alcohol becomes enough of an issue to motivate some form of temperance. Speaking of motivation, it’s crucial the person who seeks the treatment be self inspired to follow through with the program. These medications are not a quick fix. Relapses are common if not followed up with psychotherapy to deal with the emotional stressors responsible for abusive drinking.


Combining the anti craving medications with a program of abstinence from alcohol and consultative therapy to get at the issues associated with your alcohol problem is known to achieve good results. The mind set is different for these people. With a long term goal of living alcohol free as the objective, the recovering alcoholic uses the medications to assist them through the difficult post withdrawal period where your mind is continually playing tricks on you to start drinking again. The urge to drink is so strong that many will “white knuckle it” through this period.


This no longer needs to be the case with alcohol cessation medication. The addiction is powerful and if a medication is available that’s proven effective in the healing of those suffering from alcohol dependence why not make use of it provided it comes with consultative therapy?


The unification of alcohol cessation medications, therapy and ongoing emotional support will greatly improve an alcoholic or problem drinker’s chances of resuming a more manageable and fulfilling life.

To set up an appointment with Michael Pearlman, M.D.,
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