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Home Industry News Alcoholics benefit from alcohol-deterrent drugs

Alcoholics benefit from alcohol-deterrent drugs

4th January 2006

Alcohol-deterrent drugs do work and could be used to help recovering alcoholics in the UK, according to a new study.

A German study of the relapse rate among alcoholics found that those treated with alcohol deterrents (ADs) such as disulfiram and calcium carbimide had significantly higher long-term abstinence rates.

The nine-year study from the Max-Planck-Institute of Experimental Medicine concluded that use of ADs can lead to a long-term abstinence rate of more than 50 per cent, compared to standard therapy rates of six to 20 per cent.

ADs are not widely used at moment in the UK. Colin Brewer, research director of the Stapleford Centre in London, suggested that the UK could take a lead from Europe.

“I have co-authored a study showing that the three ‘Anglo-Saxon’ countries examined ? the UK, US and New Zealand ? had the lowest use,” Dr Brewer said.

“Furthermore, a recent US study showed that addiction specialists prescribed disulfiram or naltrexone for fewer than 15 percent of their alcoholic patients. Conversely, disulfiram use is certainly common in Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria and Scandinavia.”

Author of the study Hannelore Ehrenreich suggested that the benefits of ADs could be psychological more than purely pharmacological.

“Our results support a major clinical implication that severe alcoholism is a chronic and relapsing disease,” said Dr Ehrenreich. “Only long-term treatment, followed by life-long attending of check-up sessions and self-help group participation will guarantee long-term recovery.

“Supervised intake of ADs can easily and successfully be integrated into a comprehensive and structured outpatient long-term treatment program. The strategy of deterrence works if therapists disengage from the emphasis of pharmacological effects of disulfiram and make full use of the psychological actions of this drug.”

“The psychological role that ADs may play in relapse prevention is one of the most interesting aspects of the study,” added Dr Brewer.

“These results support the theory that prolonged abstinence achieved with disulfiram automatically leads to the consolidation of the habit of abstinence. Practice makes perfect. The longer people abstain, the longer they will abstain.”

The study is published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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