Addiction expert: Medication can help curb alcohol abuse

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – While parts of the economy have suffered during the pandemic, alcohol sales have not; but pandemic drinking can turn into problem drinking, and for Americans with alcohol abuse disorder, a leading addiction specialist says medications should be considered first instead of last.

“We think 10-15% of Americans are vulnerable to substance abuse disorders in general—of which alcohol use is paramount,” said Professor Bankole Johnson.

Johnson is a leading addiction specialist who says that while 12-step programs can help, they have limitations, especially right now.

“Of course people can do group meeting on zoom but it’s not the same thing as having someone next to them you can chat or talk with—rather than on zoom which is artificial,” Johnson explained.

Johnson says more focus should be trained on medications that curb alcohol cravings, like Naltrexone or Vivitrol.

They can be taken as a daily pill, reducing or eliminating the pleasure of alcohol that drives people to drink too much. 

Another drug, Ondansteron, is now in phase 3 clinical trials to reduce drinking in Europe.

Johnson says Americans tend to see drinking as an issue of willpower rather than a medical problem, causing them to miss out on an opportunity to live a healthier life.

“There is a general reluctance for people to take tablets or medication for treatment for alcohol use disorder—and this is quite strange,” said Johnson

Naltrexone is a prescription drug so you’ll need to see your doctor. They are not considered addictive and do not cause withdrawal symptoms when you stop using them.

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