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Cure for alcoholism - could there be a pill for alcoholism?

Published 06/06/2009

Alcoholism affects many people and is notoriously difficult to treat. However, the recent launch of a book by Dr Olivier Ameisen has again fuelled the debate for a ‘miracle-pill' for curing alcoholism and addiction.  Obviously, medical opinion is divided on the benefits, or not, of this particular cure, but it again raises an important question: is there a short-cut cure for alcoholics on the horizon?

Although Dr Ameisen's claim that a drug commonly prescribed for muscle spasms helped to make him indifferent to alcohol, the drug in question has not undergone any clinical trials and he had to take dangerously high levels of the medication to have the desired effect.  So, at present, there is no scientific substance to Dr Ameisen's claim.  However, a recent drug that is making the headlines in the US, that has undergone scientific testing is a migraine and seizure drug , topiramate.  This particular drug was tested against a placebo in a 14 week clinical trial on diagnosed alcoholics and the results announced in June 2009. 

The aim of the trial was to see if it would reduce the sample group's craving for alcohol.  The results were encouraging.  On average, patients in the topiramate group experienced a 54 percent decline in their craving and obsessive thoughts about alcohol.  This was compared with a 33 percent reduction in the placebo group.   The drug also did a better job of lowering liver enzymes, cholesterol, body mass index, and blood pressure-which reduces the risk of serious health conditions.  However, the side effects included numbness or tingling sensations, altered taste, weight loss leading to anorexia, and difficulty with concentration.

As can be seen from even just these two examples, a ‘miracle-pill' cure for alcoholism, is not a reality at present.  Even those drugs that can assist the process have to be weighed compared to their accompanying side-effects.  The triggers that lead a person to becoming alcohol dependent are not straight forward and a person deciding to stop drinking will need to seek professional help to guide them through the process.

Sue Allchurch, director of Linwood Group, explains further: "Apart from the physical aspect of alcohol dependency, withdrawal from alcohol also brings up and out the underlying problems that began the whole drinking pattern in the first place.  When a person begins to seek help for a drinking related problem, it is important that they don't just become fixated on finding a ‘wonder-pill' that is an alcoholism cure, but see their decision as a journey to getting well emotionally as well as physically."

There are a range of treatments available for those looking to seek help for an alcohol related problem.  The key is to choose the type of treatment that best suits the individual and is most likely to lead to a positive resolution to the addiction.  The most recognised programme for long-term alcohol recovery has to be the Alcoholics Anonymous organisations 12 Step model.  This is based on acceptance, letting go of the past and dealing with problems as they arise, combined with having continued self awareness, not only of negative behaviours but also of the positive successes achieved in each day, to ensure long-term recovery. 


However, for many this programme of change cannot be implemented without some initial focused help in the form of a residential stay at a rehabilitation centre.  If the first thing that springs to mind is that rehab centres are just for A-list celebrities, think again.  A wide range of treatment centres are now available throughout the UK and offer safe and professional environments in which to begin the process of recovery.

If you or a loved one need advice on beginning to seek professional help for alcohol dependency, then why not call the Linwood Group for confidential advice?   To take those first steps on the road to recovery, call Freephone 0800 066 4173 or if you are calling from a mobile phone or from overseas, call 01226 698 054.


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