Sunday, October 18, 2015

Alcoholism recovery medications and the quest for the Holy Grail

Medication to help a person maintain abstinence is an entirely different concept than medication to cure alcohol addiction. The former exists, the latter has been a pipe dream of the Holy Grail sort for generations. (Read the entire article or share the YouTube video.)

The progress continues on encouraging new medications that help a person in early sobriety hang onto that sobriety. Disulfiram, or antabuse, was first patented almost 100 years ago. It works by consequence: If you drink while you're on antabuse, you get violently ill. Even if you don't drink on antabuse, it still gives you a dull, all-day headache. It blocks metabolism of alcohol at an early stage, resulting in a build up of acetaldehyde, which is even more toxic than the alcohol. Many doctors don't or won't prescribe this old treatment because it is a medicine that can make you sick. First Do No Harm is a doctor's sworn oath.

It was originally patented to treat stomach parasites. It's effect when mixed with alcohol was discovered decades later when European soldiers were taking it to fight of jungle illnesses in Malaysia and it seriously messed up the drinking of those who were so inclined.
Better abstinence treatments are naltrexone and acamprosate. There are newer treatments, including the pain reliever gabapentin. This isn't intended to be an all-inclusive report. Naltrexone, or Revia, works on the brain's reward mechanism. Acamprosate, or Campral, does as well. The exact mechanism isn't understood completely, however both drugs emerged in the last three decades as being effective at reducing cravings and increasing the number of people who remain abstinent, when combined with counseling.

And that's why there isn't and won't be a recovery pill, only an abstinence-enhancing pill: Because there is not a pill for counseling. A previous episode of The Sobriety :60+ explained the differences between abstinence, sobriety and recovery.
Presently, about nine percent of alcoholics are on any type of abstinence pill. The quest for the Holy Grail pill that will stop alcohol dependence and let someone drink risk-free isn't possible. First off, it doesn't address why the person is drinking alcohol in the first place. Second, there is no such thing as drinking a toxin and known carcinogen without risk: Even moderate use shortens life expectancy and increases risk of 60 other diseases beyond the disease of alcoholism. And a physician is called to First Do No Harm.
Visit for a replay of CBS Sports' Power Up Your Health featuring Scott Stevens.  Host Ed Forteau led a discussion on risky myths of about "healthy" drinking.  Lucy Pireel's "All That's Written" included a feature on Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud called "When alcohol doesn't work for you anymore."  Details on the third literary award for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud also can be found on, plus the NEW book, Adding Fire to the Fuel, is now available. Download the FREE Alcohology app in the Google PlayStore today.