(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.