Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an evidence-based treatment for alcohol addiction that is endorsed by the American Medical Association and other public healthcare agencies.
MAT utilizes medication in combination with behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders and prevent relapse.
Defining Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling drinking, thinking about alcohol excessively, or continuing to use alcohol even when it causes issues.
Alcohol abuse can occur without addiction.
While circumstances may vary, alcohol abuse typically refers to consuming an average of more than two drinks per day for men and an average of more than one drink per day for women.
Alcohol abuse may also take the form of binge drinking, which is defined as five or more drinks in two hours for men and four or more drinks in two hours for women.
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The Risks Of Continued Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol use is an important risk factor for a host of serious side effects.
Alcohol abuse is the underlying cause of over 30 conditions and is a contributing factor to many more.
The most common disease categories related to alcohol abuse include:
- cardiovascular disease
- liver disease
- pancreas disease
- unintentional and intentional injury
Those who abuse alcohol also experience a variety of social issues as a result of drinking, including problems in the workplace, criminal convictions, financial problems, and family disruptions.
Excessive alcohol use is responsible for one in five deaths of adults ages 20-49 years old and led to 140,000 deaths each year in the United States from 2015 to 2019.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) For Alcohol Abuse
MAT combines medications with behavioral treatments that are tailored to the individual. MAT may effectively decrease cravings and drinking behaviors.
MAT has been shown to:
- increase survival rates
- increase treatment retention rates
- decrease criminal activity related to alcohol use
- increase an individual’s ability to gain or keep employment
The primary goal of MAT is full recovery and creating the ability to live a self-directed life.
MAT often begins with a period of medical detox and progresses through rehabilitative and supportive phases, including counseling and medication management.
Medications Used To Treat Alcohol Use Disorders
Acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone are common drugs used to treat alcohol use disorders. While these prescription drugs don’t cure alcohol use disorders, they can reduce the urge to abuse alcohol.
Acamprosate is used for people in recovery who have stopped drinking and want to avoid alcohol use.
Acamprosate prevents someone from drinking alcohol by stabilizing the chemicals in the brain that were damaged due to excessive alcohol use.
Acamprosate doesn’t prevent withdrawal symptoms after drinking.
Disulfiram is most effective for those who have stopped alcohol use or are beginning abstinence.
Disulfiram inhibits aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH1A1), which is an enzyme within the major pathway used to metabolize alcohol.
When taking disulfiram, alcohol consumption increases acetaldehyde, which creates several adverse side effects.
Adverse side effects, including chest pains and difficulty breathing, can occur with disulfiram within ten minutes after drinking even a small amount of alcohol.
Naltrexone treats alcohol addiction by blocking the euphoric effects of intoxication. When someone consumes alcohol, it increases the amount of dopamine released in the brain.
Naltrexone works to block dopamine receptors and prevent the release of dopamine during alcohol use.
This action on dopamine receptors reduces cravings and creates a reduction in alcohol use.
Additional Treatments For Alcohol Use Disorders
There are a variety of additional treatment methods used for alcohol use disorders. These methods may be used alone or combined.
Detoxification is often the first step in recovering from an alcohol use disorder.
The main goals of detoxification are to help the individual reach an alcohol-free state, relieve the immediate symptoms of withdrawal, and treat co-occurring medical or mental health conditions.
Alcohol detoxification can be performed safely in both inpatient and outpatient settings.
Behavioral Health Treatments
Behavioral health treatments include various therapies, counseling, and interventions. These treatments may be used in combination with medications or alone.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapy focused on identifying feelings and situations that lead to heavy drinking and managing stressful situations that can lead to relapse.
CBT seeks to change the thought process that leads to alcohol abuse and develop coping skills to handle stressful situations that may trigger drinking.
Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)
Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) is used over a short period to build the motivation to change drinking behaviors.
This therapy helps an individual form a plan for making changes to their drinking habits and develops the skills needed to follow through with the plan.
Marital and Family Counseling
Marital and family counseling brings spouses and family members into the treatment process. This form of counseling aims to repair and improve family relationships.
Strong family support during treatment has been proven to be extremely important in helping someone stay clean and prevent relapse.
Brief interventions are limited counseling sessions. The therapist provides the individual with information about their drinking patterns and the risks they face.
Brief interventions work to set goals and provide an individual with solutions to stop alcohol use.
Support groups, including Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other programs, provide support for an individual after they have undergone initial treatment.
Mutual support groups can offer an individual the ability to create bonds with those who are going through similar situations.
Begin Treatment For Alcohol Addiction In Massachusetts
If you, a family member, or a friend are seeking treatment for alcohol addiction in Massachusetts, we can help.
Contact our team at Bedrock Recovery Center to learn more about our services.
- Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm/
- Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243/
- Medline Plus https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a604028.html/
- National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism (NIAAA) https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/treatment-alcohol-problems-finding-and-getting-help#pub-toc1/
- National Library Of Medicine: PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3307043/
- National Library Of Medicine: Bookshelf https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64164/pdf/Bookshelf_NBK64164.pdf/
- National Library Of Medicine: PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6761814/
- National Library Of Medicine: PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2565602/
- National Library Of Medicine: Bookshelf https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459340/
- Substance Abuse And Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) https://www.samhsa.gov/medications-substance-use-disorders/
- Substance Abuse And Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) https://www.samhsa.gov/medications-substance-use-disorders/medications-counseling-related-conditions/
- Substance Abuse And Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt35313/2020_NSSATS_FINAL.pdf/