New Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

alcohol use disorder

This month we are talking about alcohol, because April is Alcohol Awareness Month. The annual occurrence involves a number of events taking place throughout the country, with the aim of increasing public awareness and understanding about the dangers of alcohol use. Alcohol Awareness Month is sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) – the leading advocacy organization in the world addressing alcoholism and drug dependence since 1942. This year’s Alcohol Awareness Month theme is: “Talk Early, Talk Often: Parents Can Make a Difference in Teen Alcohol Use.”

Having an unhealthy relationship with alcohol during adolescence can lead to an alcohol use disorder as early as young adulthood. Parents who have open, honest conversations with their children drastically reduce the likelihood of their kids using drugs or alcohol. The more teenagers know about the dangers commonly associated with alcohol use, the greater the chance they will stay away from the insidious substance.

“Alcohol and drug use is a very risky business for young people,” says Andrew Pucher, President and Chief Executive Officer of NCADD, “and parents can make a difference. The longer children delay drinking and drug use, the less likely they are to develop any problems associated with it. That’s why it is so important to help your child make smart decisions about alcohol and drugs.”

Unfortunately, many young adults are already living with an alcohol use disorder (AUD), which is why researchers have a huge incentive to develop effective treatments. Residential treatment centers give people struggling with alcohol the best shot at recovery, but there are times when medications are used to help prevent relapse, such as:

  • Acamprosate
  • Naltrexone
  • Disulfiram

While some people recovering from alcoholism respond well to the aforementioned medications, others have not been so fortunate. Researchers from QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation may have found a new treatment for AUD, and the beta blocker pindolol has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Science Daily reports. The findings were published in Addiction Biology, the Journal of the Society for the Study of Addiction.

“Drugs currently used for AUDs (alcohol use disorders) — acamprosate, naltrexone and disulfiram — have limited success — so this is a ground-breaking development with enormous potential,” said Professor Bartlett who is based at the Translational Research Institute. “In an internationally-significant breakthrough, our study showed pindolol was able to reduce ethanol/alcohol consumption, particularly in relation to binge drinking, a key behaviour observed in human alcohol dependence.”

Alcohol Use Disorder Screening

alcohol use disorder

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects millions of Americans, a disorder which can have serious impact on one’s health and can be fatal. Without effective, evidence-based treatments, the chances of recovery are slim. Sadly, many young adults have an AUD which usually arose in their teenage years. Preventing teenage alcohol misuse and abuse is crucial, and doctors can play a huge role in intervening early on.

New research has found that physicians who ask teens just one question about drinking frequency in the past year can help them determine who is at risk for developing an AUD down the road, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) press release. The study involved almost 1,200 young people ages 12 to 20. The findings were published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

“Primary care physicians are encouraged to screen adolescents for alcohol problems, yet many do not, citing time constraints and other issues,” NIAAA Director George Koob, PhD said in a news release. “This study demonstrates that simple screening tools such as those in NIAAA’s Youth Guide are efficient and effective.” 

Using a computer-based questionnaire at a primary care clinic, the teens involved in the study were asked about how much alcohol they use and were screened for an AUD, the press release reports. The researchers found that 10 percent of those over age 14 met the diagnostic criteria for an AUD. The NIAAA funded study found that 44 percent of teens between 12 and 17 years old who had at least one drink on three or more days in the past year met the criteria for AUD. But everyone who drank that much was at risk for alcohol problems. Thirty-one percent of 18-20 year olds who reported 12 or more drinking days in the last year were found to have an AUD.

“This finding confirms that a single question can be an effective screen for AUD,” said lead researcher Duncan B. Clark, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. 

If you are a young adult and believe that you have a problem with alcohol, please contact Harmony Foundation. Our Young Adult Recovery Track (YART) is specifically tailored for treating young adults with substance use disorders, let us help you begin the journey of recovery.

Nonviolent Drug Offenders See Light Again

Addiction is not a crime! It isn’t a moral failing or a lack of constitution. Addiction is a disease of the mind that requires treatment and a program of maintenance, if recovery is to be possible. For decades, the United States government’s solution to addiction was locking up “offenders” and essentially throwing away the key. Even if a non-violent drug offender was released, the likelihood of recidivism was staggering.

Handcuffs and cell bars do not treat addiction, they only serve to put a scientifically accepted mental illness on the back burner; the disorder simmers until the day of release, at which time it comes forward and is brought to a rolling boil. Without the tools and resources necessary to remain abstinent, the vast majority will find themselves behind bars again. It is a vicious cycle that has been the status quo for too long.

Over the last decade, lawmakers have slowly come to terms with the fact that they can no longer treat addiction, and those who suffer from the disease, the way they have in the past; fear of punishment does little to detract addicts from continuing to use. Politicians from both sides of the aisle have begun to push for changes with regard to mandatory minimum sentences, rules that take sentencing out of the hands of judges. Right now, as these words are written, thousands of people are sitting behind bars for anywhere from 20 years to life – the result of nonviolent drug offenses.

Fortunately, we may be able to learn from the mistakes of our past, doing away with draconian mandatory minimum sentences and releasing those who are serving unjust terms for the crime of addiction. President Obama has done a lot in his tenure to undo some of our mistakes, granting clemency to hundreds of nonviolent drug offenders. In fact, the President has commuted the sentences of 248 prisoners thus far, more prisoners than the last six presidents put together, The New York Time reports. On Wednesday, the President commuted 61 sentences, more than one third of which were serving life sentences.

“Most of them are low-level drug offenders whose sentences would have been shorter if they were convicted under today’s laws,” President Obama said on his Facebook page. “I believe America is a nation of second chances, and with hard work, responsibility, and better choices, people can change their lives and contribute to our society.”