Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a brain disorder or medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse occupational, social, or health consequences.
AUD can range from mild to moderate and severe level. Prolonged use of alcohol makes changes in the brain chemistry. Alcohol misuse is the main reason for 95,000 deaths in the United States annually and alcohol is considered to be third most prevalent reason of death in US.
Approximately 14 million people in the U.S. battle with alcohol use disorder (AUD), and nearly one in 10 children, experiences an abusive situation at home because of parents grappling with AUD. Yet, very people opt for medication to treat AUD.
Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved four medications for treating alcohol use disorder (AUD) since 1949, statistics reveal they are rarely prescribed by doctors.
A new study, looking into a 2019 data from national survey on drug and alcohol use suggests that nearly 6% adults in the United States had AUD. However, only 10% were reported to have received treatment for AUD. The study results showed only 1.6% of patients took AUD medications.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Science Policy, both medication and treatment rates are low for AUD. The reason for this is cultural stigma surrounding alcoholism.
A person suffering from AUD never admits to the condition, fearing social stigma.
How to recognize signs of AUD?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol abuse and alcoholism the following can be considered as signs of AUD:
- Impaired ability to cut down drinking and failing to refrain from alcohol
- Ending up drinking more or longer than intended
- Experiencing craving—a strong urge to drink quite often
- Spending plenty of time in drinking
- Continue to drink even though it caused trouble in social life
- Gotten into risky situations such as meeting with accident or unsafe sexual behavior
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms and issues like insomnia, irritability, shakiness, restlessness, anxiety, depression, nausea, or sweating
- Giving up on activities that were important or interesting
- Increased threshold for alcohol
Medication for AUD
Despite the guidelines for pharmacological treatments of patients with AUD being released in 2017 by the American Psychiatric Association very little is known about these medications and its usage.
There are three major ingredients—naltrexone, disulfiram, and acamprosate—used in medications approved for treating AUD.
Naltrexone, also known as Vivitrol, is used to treat AUD. In addition to AUD treatment it is also used to treat opioid disorder. Naltrexone blocks the brain’s new opioid receptors thus making consuming alcohol a less pleasurable experience.
Disulfiram, also known as Antabuse is the oldest known drug to treat AUD. It has a history of making people sick long back in the 40’s and 50’s. Its mechanism involves triggering a reaction in the body while coming in contact with alcohol, making people sick.
Acamprosate, also known as Campral, can help alleviate discomfort experienced during withdrawal symptoms. Its mechanism involves normalizing the transmission of the neurotransmitter glutamate in the brain that becomes disrupted due to prolonged alcohol use.
The treatment for AUD works best when therapy is combined with medication. Medication is combined with psychotherapies such as talk therapy, family therapy, group therapy, habit reversal therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and detoxification therapy to combat AUD. But refraining from medication due to stigmatization can exacerbate symptoms.
Alcohol use disorder is not a character flaw. At times AUD co-exists with other mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder and PTSD. People enduring other mental health disorder can also develop AUD.
Many studies suggest that people living in metropolitan cities are able to take advantage of mental health care system and visit hospital frequently. But the rural population has little or no access to mental health treatment. The studies also evinced that only severe cases, or with access to precise resources, are able to get treatment, while the rest refrained from seeking treatment.
Medication for AUD is widely available but distributing among people adds a big challenge. To implement the treatments more effectively, imparting basic training to healthcare providers, effective screening and change in cultural perception needs to be done on priority.
Proper screening, medical assessment or assessment tool should be readily available for patients. Individual medical assessment is a tool that will help the practitioner to provide customized treatment programs for patients.
A big support network is also needed to help AUD patients to seek treatment and complete it successfully. AUD treatment is a process that takes 30, 60 or 90 days to complete. Patients can avail inpatient residential treatment programs, outpatient treatment programs or partial hospitalization treatment programs.
These treatments programs include detoxification process, medication and a combination of psychotherapies including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The most challenging part of the treatment is the relapse phase or withdrawal symptoms. During this phase, support from groups or family and friends becomes very important. AUD patients often refrain from taking medication during this phase.
Get help for AUD
People are reluctant to seek help because they are unaware how these medications can help. Therefore diagnosis of AUD, social support and seeking proper treatment is important to overcome the disorder.
Mission Recovery treatment is a pioneer in treating drug and alcohol use disorder. We have the best residential treatment centers and detox centers in California. To know more about our treatment programs call us today at our 24/7 helpline number 855-355-1116.