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Two medications helpful for initial treatment of alcoholism

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Getting and staying sober can be a long road.

Many people suffering from alcoholism find traditional treatment options--like inpatient rehabilitation programs--to be either too expensive or time-consuming. But doctors say that two drugs that have been commonly used to treat recovering alcoholics may be a good starting point.

Recovery in a pill?

A study published in the journal Addiction analyzed 64 trials with patients taking one of the two medications, acamprosate and naltrexone. Acamprosate was found to be most effective at helping people stay sober who were not currently drinking, while naltrexone seemed to help heavy drinkers abstain and manage cravings.

The two drugs work differently on the brain. Acamprosate helps to calm the brain after the disorder that may occur when an addicted person stops drinking, while naltrexone helps minimize the "reward" feelings of pleasure that a person gets from drinking.

The findings

The research concluded that about one in nine people will stop drinking when taking acamprosate, and one in ten taking naltrexone would not return to "heavy" drinking.

Authors of the study say that this research offers new hope for people traditionally told they need an intensive recovery program that might interrupt daily life or cost thousands of dollars.

"People should realize that there are alternative treatments that are useful for them while they continue in their normal work and family, that they don't necessarily have to go into a 30-day treatment center to get treatment for alcohol," Dr. Raymond Anton, head of the Center for Drug & Alcohol Programs at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, told Reuters Health.

It is unclear how long the drug treatments would remain effective, however, as the trials in the study were only a few months long.

Source: Reuters