The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has published new guidelines for using medication for the treatment of alcohol use disorders.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) collaborated with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to convene a panel of experts in alcohol research, clinical care, medical education and public policy to review current data on the efficacy of medications for the treatment of alcohol use disorders.
“Medication-assisted treatment has shown much promise in reducing alcohol use and promoting abstinence in patients diagnosed with alcohol use disorder,” experts wrote. “Considerable research evidence and consensus among experts support the use of pharmacologic treatments in primary care settings.”
According to the panel, the following FDA-approved medications have been shown to be effective for management of alcohol dependence or the prevention of relapse to alcohol use:
- Campral (acamprosate calcium, Forest Laboratories) for maintaining abstinence from alcohol among patients dependent on alcohol;
- Antabuse (disulfiram, Teva Women’s Health) to aid management of patients who wish to remain sober while taking supportive and psychotherapeutic treatment;
- Oral naltrexone hydrochloride for the treatment of alcohol dependence; and
- Vivitrol (extended release naltrexone, Alkermes, Inc) for treatment of alcohol dependence among patients who have been able to abstain from alcohol in an outpatient setting.
When treating a patient with an alcohol dependency or who has stopped drinking but is experiencing difficulties, such as cravings or relapse, the panel recommends physicians consider prescribing one of these medications.
The guide also includes recommendations on screening for risky alcohol use, assessing the need for medication-assisted treatment, developing treatment plans, choosing a medication, treating patients with multiple disorders and monitoring patient progress.
“As new patient care models are encouraged by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the accompanying improvements in the quality and quantity of treatment options that are anticipated as the ACA is implemented, there is considerable potential for expanding the use of medication-assisted treatment as clinicians recognize their safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness,” the panel concluded. – by Amanda Oldt
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Medication for the treatment of alcohol use disorder: A brief guide. Available at: http://www.samhsa.gov. Accessed April 6, 2015.