New Shot to Treat Alcoholism
Alcoholism is the fourth leading cause of disability in the world. Alcoholism is increasingly viewed as a
chronic disease and is the cause of approximately 100,000 preventable deaths in the United States each year.
There are many treatment options such as Alcoholics Anonymous, addiction counseling, behavioral counseling, and
As with all chronic diseases, long-term comprehensive management is necessary to sustain the desired result,
which in this case is sobriety. The view of alcoholism as a chronic disease has led to the development of many new
medications and in particular, a medication called Naltrexone.
Naltrexone was approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 1994 for alcohol dependence. This drug has been
shown to reduce the frequency of drinking and the likelihood that people will revert into heavy drinking.
This was the result of several years of intense research. Naltrexone works by blocking the bodys ability to use
endorphins and opiates.
This medication can be used in two different ways. The first and most preferred treatment is used to decrease
cravings for alcohol and to encourage abstinence.
When used in this manner the medication needs to be in the body continually without a lapse in blood serum
The other treatment, which is called pharmacological extinction, combines Naltrexone with normal drinking habits
in order to reverse the endorphin conditioning that causes alcohol addiction. When used in this manner the drug
only needs to be taken when the person plans to drink alcohol.
However, since most alcoholics do not plan their drinking it is advised to use the drug on an on going basis to
make sure it stays in the blood.
Experimental evidence indicates that the presence of Naltrexone causes the drinking of alcohol to have a reverse
affect on alcoholism. In the past, Naltrexone has been taken orally on a daily basis.
Sticking to a daily medication routine is a general problem in medicine and especially in alcoholism. With this,
came the development of a long-acting form of Naltrexone in the form of a shot.
An even better benefit of this long-acting shot is that it only needs to be given once a month.
The best results of this shot are with the highest dose possible which is 380 milligrams per injection but the
shot is also available in 190-milligram injections. With most every person who uses the Naltrexone injection, it is
well tolerated and they do not suffer from side effects.
If they do suffer from the side effects, they usually are not bad enough that the treatment has to be
discontinued. The most common side effects with the injection are nausea, headache, and fatigue.
Did You Know
Women process alcohol differently than men. Women who are alcoholics or even
occasionally drink too much alcohol face much greater health risks than men who drink the same
Women who drink will get drunk faster than men get and become addicted to alcohol
faster than men become. Although men are more likely to drink alcohol and drink in larger amounts,
gender differences in body structure and chemistry cause women to absorb more alcohol, and take
longer to break it down and remove.
In other words, upon drinking equal amounts, women have higher alcohol levels in
their blood than men, and the immediate effects occur more quickly and last longer. These
differences also make women more vulnerable to alcohol’s long-term effects on their
Research has shown that they also suffer the consequences of abuse-related
illnesses a lot quicker than men do. The effects on the
liver are more severe for women than for men and women have a higher risk of having alcohol-related
liver diseases such as cirrhosis and hepatitis. Proportionately, more women die of alcohol related cirrhosis
than men do.
Some alcohol-related illnesses that female alcoholics are at risk for include heart
disease, ulcers, reproductive problems, pancreatitis, memory loss, and
osteoporosis. In the late stages of
alcoholism, women can develop hypertension, anemia, and malnutrition faster than men
according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Several recent research projects have determined that excessive alcohol consumption
in women can result in breast cancer and different cancers of the digestive tract.
A recent study showed that women who drink two to five alcoholic drinks per day
have a 41 percent increase in their risk of getting breast cancer. Research has shown that excessive drinking in women actually
causes the brain to shrink.
In addition to the treatment of alcoholism, Naltrexone can also be used to prevent relapse in alcoholics who
have reached sobriety.
It is even more effective when combined with behavioral therapy. Although medications are not necessary for the
successful treatment of alcoholism, they can be a big benefit.
Some may ease the transition to sobriety and others cause physical effects when the person drinks alcohol.
There are many alternatives to alcohol that can actually help a person to feel more
creative, less stressed, more confident and even warm.
Exercise is one activity that can help relieve stress and help a person deal with his or her
Regardless of the drug that it used or the purposes of the medication, research has shown that in most cases
the desired effect is to have the alcoholic abstain from drinking alcohol.
The other suggested use of medications is a combined modality in which the medications are used in conjunction
with other forms of treatment such as therapy or Alcoholics Anonymous.