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Taking Away the Carrot: Alcohol Dependence Treatment

Dr. Nick Maroulis

Dr. Nick Maroulis

Guest Blog: Nick Maroulis, Pharm.D., Director of Pharmacy at BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy

For all too many people, alcohol is not just a way to relax with friends at the end of a work day; it becomes a serious health threat. In fact, alcohol plays a role in more than 85,000 deaths yearly in the United States. Getting a handle on alcohol misuse proves extremely challenging for many people and new medication options can be a life-saver, which is the case with Vivitrol (naltrexone).

The attractive feature with Vivitrol is that it takes away the craving for alcohol. Patients who have gone through treatment and are not currently drinking can be prescribed Vivitrol injections which work by blocking brain opioid receptors. The end effect is that alcohol no longer creates a feeling of euphoria and is therefore no longer a rewarding behavior.

In other words, there’s no more “carrot” from alcohol use, but this medication also doesn’t punish with a “stick” since Vivitrol itself doesn’t cause any sickness if alcohol is used.

That’s the theory with Vivitrol, but does that really pan out in the real world? It sure does, according to this month’s Addiction journal. A new article from researchers at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System re-examined studies with several medications for treating alcohol dependence to tease out the benefits of various therapies.

After identifying and scrutinizing 64 well-designed studies, these researchers confirmed that Vivitrol is particularly well-suited for taking away the craving for alcohol that plagues so many patients in the recovery process. Vivitrol also showed effectiveness in reducing heavy drinking.

BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy is a preferred provider of Vivitrol, which is a limited access medication. Vivitrol is a boon to healthcare professionals and patients dealing with alcohol misuse to have another tool in the toolkit to treat the significant health problem of alcohol dependence.

Sources:
Maisel NC, Blodgett JC, Wilbourne PL, et al. Meta-analysis of naltrexone and acamprosate for treating alcohol use disorders: when are these medications most helpful? Addiction 2013;108(2):275-93.
 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Indicators for chronic disease surveillance. MMWR 2004;53(No.RR-11).

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