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As Alcohol Awareness Month draws to a close, the millions of people directly or indirectly affected by alcoholism look to science and psychology for a much-needed end to the epidemic.
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. designated April as a time to reflect on the impact of alcohol abuse and addiction on society and band together to find a way to stop it.
This year, the theme was “Help for today, hope for tomorrow.” NCADD emphasized underage drinking as a primary point of concern and sponsored local, state and national events to educate people about the treatment and prevention of alcoholism.
Alcoholism Prevention in America
As the most pervasive addiction in the country, alcoholism creates problems on an individual scale as well as on a national and economic one. Underage drinking specifically is a problem because of its long-lasting negative impact: research has shown that people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin at 21.
Preventative measures can help save millions of people heartache down the road. Educational programs through NCADD and other organizations can help inform young people to be wary of alcohol abuse, instilling caution and responsibility in teens who might otherwise be naive to its dangers.
Treatment for current addicts is as important as prevention as there are already many people suffering from this devastating addiction. The past year has brought many advancements and breakthroughs that are paving the way for better treatment.
Treatment and Medication Advancements of 2013-2014
The past year has brought many promising treatment advancements for those currently struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction. Some of the highlights of these therapies and medications include:
- Nalmefene. A new treatment that allows for the reduction in drinking among alcohol-dependent people. Nalmefene is a drug that “blocks the buzz” of alcohol, thereby attempting to reduce the amount of alcohol that a person drinks at a given time. In clinical trials, it was significantly more effective than placebos, and participants were attracted to its ability to be used on an as-needed basis. Nalmefene may provide a viable harm reduction approach for those with an alcohol problem who don’t see abstinence as an option.
- Computer-assisted therapies. Behavioral therapies and clinician follow-up have long been seen as effective treatments for alcoholism. Technological advances have made computerized versions of these approaches even more promising by extending their reach. Some of the biggest benefits to computer-assisted therapies include 25-hour availability, greater confidentiality, standardization and the ability to reach underserved populations.
- Ezogabine. Though studies are still in the preliminary phases, this relatively new anti-seizure drug may have the potential to help alcoholics quit drinking. Ezogabine works by regulating brain activity in a way that may impact the rewarding effects of alcohol on an addict’s brain. Ezogabine is only approved for the treatment of seizure disorders (such as epilepsy), so any use of it to treat alcoholism would be considered off-label.
These are only a few of the many alcoholism treatments that are in the research phase. As alcoholism continues to be a burden on many people, many others are actively looking for ways to combat it.
And while the holy grail of alcohol treatment hasn’t been found, plenty of viable options are out there. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, help is available right now.
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