BlankAbnormal Psychology by Stephen Schwartz
Abnormal Psychology in the News

July 2000

(Corresponds to Chapter 6 in your text)

New Drug for Treatment of Alcoholism

Ongoing clinical trials in Europe indicate that acomprosat may be an effective pharmacological treatment for alcoholism. Like naltrexone, a drug that has only had modest success in helping people overcome alcohol dependence, acomprosat is a dopamine antagonist. It may help reduce the cycle of addiction by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain to which alcohol binds. Although its mechanisms are not fully known at this time, acomprosat may act on a different type of dopamine receptor. This, along with the fact that early trials indicate that it has fewer side effects than naltrexone, may make acomprosat a more promising medical treatment for alcohol dependence.

Once pharmacological treatments prove more effective, family physicians may become more involved in treating alcoholism. A study released last month by Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse in New York City found that 94% of primary care doctors miss or misdiagnose adult patients who abuse alcohol. Presently, physicians don't generally take the initiative in diagnosing alcohol dependence, but rely on patients to call it to their attention. Depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal complaints, and hypertension all may mask alcohol abuse, but doctors say that when asked, most patients lie about the extent of their alcohol use.

Medical treatment alone will never cure substance dependence. Acomprosat researchers caution that psychosocial treatment will be a necessary adjunctive therapy.

Read more about acomprosat and the National Institute of Health publication on how physicians can help patients with alcohol problems.

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