Amidst surge in alcohol consumption, medications may help people quit drinking

The pandemic has some people drinking more alcohol than ever before.
The pandemic has some people drinking more alcohol than ever before.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Since the start of the pandemic, sales of alcohol in the U.S. have risen dramatically which is continuing to raise concerns about the negative health effects of excessive consumption.

”We’re seeing record alcohol use and especially binge drinking among women,” said Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Bober, including a woman who asked to only be known as “Emily.”

”It’s very seductive.  I love everything about it; I love the way it looks, I like the way it smells, how it tastes, how it makes me feel.  I love how it’s become a ritual,” she said.

Bober said what many don’t realize is that there are medications that can help people reduce the amount they drink or stop drinking altogether.

That’s because a lot of physicians are uncomfortable prescribing them because they didn’t receive the training,” Bober said.

He said there are three medications approved by the FDA to treat alcohol abuse and addiction, among them, a drug called Disulfiram.

“And what it does it actually interferes with the metabolism of alcohol so that when people drink they become ill, they become nauseous, they get a headache, they become flushed so it’s an unpleasant experience,” he said.

Another drug, Naltrexone, is an opioid blocker.

”Which does not prevent someone from getting drunk, but it prevents them from having the pleasurable sensation of drinking so it has been shown to reduce the number of days drinking as well as heavy drinking,” Bober said.

The third drug is called Acamprosate which also affects cracking for alcohol by impacting neurotransmitters in the brain.

But Bober emphasizes that medication alone is not the solution.

“My motto is always ‘skills not pills,’ so you can’t just take a pill to make the problem go away,” he said.

And for some who’ve been overindulging in recent months, there may be only one way to solve the problem.

“I think for me it’s black and white and the best thing I could probably do is to just have nothing,” Emily said.

There are two other medications approved to treat seizures, which health care professionals sometimes use off-label to treat alcohol use disorder but they are not FDA approved for this purpose.

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