The Wall Street Journal, which publishes high quality articles about science and health, published an update about treatments for alcohol problems on 12-16-14. The article, “A Prescription to End Drinking: Data on Medicine for Alcohol Disorders Pushes Doctors Beyond 12-Step Programs,” covers a lot of territory.
It begins be reviewing research that finds that there is a wide range of severity of alcohol problems, a wide range of contributing factors, and more need for individualized treatment than has been provided in the past. About 1 in 5 American adults drink excessively on a monthly basis, and about 3% are dependent upon alcohol. The authored notes,” Experts hope that with more treatments available, people on the milder end of the spectrum will seek help earlier and avoid slipping into riskier drinking patterns.”
The author goes on to review medications available to treat alcohol problems, including some that can be used to help problems drinkers, who are not necessarily addicted, reduce their alcohol intake. There is even a drug that can be taken on an “as needed” basis, such as before the person goes to a party- to help the person avoid over indulging. Other drugs are available to help reduce the effects of chronic drinking and to help people in recovery avoid turning to alcohol to manage their discomfort.
The article does not provide much information about behavioral treatments, but does provide a paragraph each about motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral treatments for alcohol problems. It also includes brief discussion about new smartphone apps, such as one that provides relaxation training and phone numbers for sobriety resources, and even has a GPS program to warn of risky sites, such as a bar that the person used to drink at.
The article ends by making a pitch for PMPs to ask their patients about drinking to try to engage people with milder drinking problems in a discussion about their use before they develop a more serious problem. This could, and probably should, be advice for behavioral professionals, too.