New research is being carried out extensively to develop better ways of dealing with alcoholism and treating its devastating effects on individuals’ lives and health.
It is known now that genetics play a significant role in an individual turning into an alcoholic. Children of alcoholics are more prone to alcoholism. Since alcoholism is a complex disease, many genes are likely to play a part in raising the risk of a person taking to alcohol. Research scientists are searching for these genes and have had partial success in that they have found certain chromosomes where these may possibly be located. New technology may enable scientists to actually identify and measure how much each gene has contributed to the complex disease that is alcoholism. This research will lay a new foundation for treatment and medication related to alcoholism.
Researchers have been evaluating current therapies that are commonly used to treat alcohol-related disorders. New therapies are also being worked upon and some progress has been made on this front. There are three major approaches for treatment of alcohol – motivation enhancement therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy and 12-step facilitation therapy. A study has shown that these therapies have helped to substantially arrest drinking in the year following treatment. Further, it was found that one-third of the participants of this study were either still not drinking or were drinking without serious problems three years after the study ended.
Naltrexone, a new anti-craving medication has been researched by neuroscientists recently. It was found that this drug, in combination with behavioral therapy, treated alcoholism effectively. Since disulfiram, which was approved in 1949, naltrexone is the first medication to have got approval. It acts on the reward circuits of the brain and helps the individual to remain sober after detoxification from alcohol. Acamprosate, another anti-craving medication which is widely used for treatment of alcoholism in Europe, is also likely to be approved in the United States.
Combined medicines and behavioral therapies
The most encouraging results have been observed when medications have been used in combination with behavioral therapy to treat alcoholism. Research and clinical trials are ongoing to find which combination of medications and behavioral therapies have optimum impact.
Further, work is also being done in other areas such as fetal alcohol syndrome, effects of alcohol on the brain and other vital organs, new treatment techniques and strategies to reduce alcohol related problems. It is hoped that in the future, all the above efforts will help diagnose alcoholism at an early stage, provide families with new techniques and approaches and even prevent alcohol related problems.