Effective Treatments for Alcohol Use Disorders

Alcohol use disorder affects many aspects of life. Those who struggle to overcome an alcohol addiction may experience a deterioration of their professional achievements, social and family relationships and financial goals. A compulsion to drink soon overrides all other responsibilities and the risk of negative consequences do not deter the addiction.

Ongoing research continues to provide new information about the most successful ways to treat alcohol use disorder, as well as information about the factors involved with its development and the consequences associated with the disorder.

The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry recently published reviews of several studies that provide information about treatments and strategies for alcohol use disorders and related problems. The studies are based on the understanding that approximately 40 percent of those who have alcohol use disorder also meet criteria for a co-occurring mental illness. Most common are mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia.

One research study highlighted in the journal is an examination of medication therapies by Dr. Bernard Le Foll, clinician scientist and head of CAMH’s Alcohol Research and Treatment Clinic within the Addiction Medicine Service.

The researchers looked at common medications used to treat alcohol use disorder. The research provided information showing that the medications are often under-utilized despite a history of success in outcomes. The researchers encourage the use of medications, especially among those with co-occuring mental illnesses.

Another study examined psychosocial strategies used to treat alcohol addiction, led by Dr. Jügen Rehm, director of CAMH’s social and epidemiological research department. The study looked at the outcomes among patients treated with psychosocial treatments. The researchers found that cognitive behavioral therapy, brief interventions and motivational therapy have extensive support for their effectiveness.

However, the researchers note that great attention must be employed to be sure that the therapists using these techniques are using them consistently.

Finally, Dr. Brian Rush, senior scientist and head of the health systems and health equity research group, editorialized two studies examining the burden on society when alcoholism goes untreated. The editorial provided information about five individual factors required for interventions to impact the broad population.

Dr. Rush finds that effective treatment can be very useful in addressing the financial burden associated with alcoholism that affects public health costs, in addition to costs incurred related to criminal justice departments. The impact of alcoholism is severe, not only on the personal life of the person suffering from alcohol use disorder, but also on the greater population in terms of loss of productivity and public health costs.

These studies highlight the usefulness of various treatment options, including both therapy and pharmacological approaches. Some patients may require a strategy that includes both in order to address the various challenges they face in recovering.