There is a tendency in the US for sticking to certain beliefs, that there’s a single way to solve a problem and that’s it. Such is the case with people who have problems with alcohol, the solution is nearly always quit, go cold turkey, AA meetings and never drink again.

However is that really the only way? There’s problems with this thinking, for a start it groups a whole spectrum of drinking problems together. From the successful professional who has a few too many drinks of an evening to the hopeless alcoholic who wakes up shaking and reaching for the bottle. Is there really only one solution for every scenario like these? Is AA the only route available.

There is a growing understanding that our treatment of alcohol problems is overly simplistic and there is another option to just promoting abstinence. It’s important because alcoholism is a growing problem and the AA approach simply doesn’t work for so many people. For those who do, spend years of their life hopping on and off the wagon.

Other strategies are beginning to be applied in areas of the US and Europe in particular. Different tactic like medical interventions, therapy and even a new range of drugs which can help alcohol disorders. There are a range of new drugs which are reporting exciting results, specifically naltrexone, Selincro and nalmefene. Still not widely known but clinical trial results that are in a different league to traditional measures.

It sounds a bit too good to be true, a little pill to solve your problems but there is really some logic behind it. These drugs tackle the compulsion to drink by removing the pleasure you receive from having another drink. When most people drink their brains produce certain chemicals that make them feel good. Unfortunately in some people this ‘good feeling’ cans oon turn into a dependency.

The drugs block these effects of opioids which make you feel better. In effect the ‘feel good’ part of drinking is subdued which is theory should slow down drinking and reduce the desire to continue. Without the pleasurable part why keep drinking is the logic and it seems to work. The drug has been used in various treatments however this seems to be crucial to it’s success. As as aid to abstinence it’s not been particularly positive, however in studies where patients are urged to use the pill alongside their drinking it’s been spectacularly successful.

John Evans