New research shows that drugs like naltrexone are being underprescribed by doctors despite their proven effect against alcohol disorders.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina did an analysis of 122 randomized trials participated in by 23,000 people.
The study, published by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), said that while naltrexone and acamprosate reduce cravings for alcohol by blocking the body's chemical reward system or the part of the brain that creates feelings of pleasure or craving, a lack of awareness among doctors have resulted in low use and prescription.
The researchers presented the results through a measure called "number needed to treat," which showed the ratio of people benefiting from such medication to those actually taking the pills.
"For acamprosate, 12 people needed to be treated so that one person didn't return to drinking, as opposed to 20 patients for naltrexone," a Fox News report said.
Dr. Daniel Jonas, leader of the research group, was quoted saying, "These drugs are really underused quite a bit, and our findings show that they can help thousands and thousands of people."
Government data cited by the New York Times reveal that around 18 million Americans have alcohol abuse disorders. About 88,000 people are killed every day due to excessive drinking-related accidents.
"They're not blockbuster. They're not going to work for everybody. But they can make a difference for a lot of people," Jonas said in the NY Times article.
He pointed out that the study looked into the drugs' effectiveness in tandem with counseling and therapy. He said they did not know if the medications will work on their own.
"There are so many psychosocial issues that often go along with alcohol use disorders, like depression and anxiety," he said, adding that most people disagree that patients should be prescribed anti-addiction medication only to be left on their own devises.
On the one hand, such new insights on opioid antagonist medication have been helping dual-approach therapy centers to flourish.
One such company is BioCorRx Inc., which uses a patented naltrexone implant partnered with life coaching sessions.
Unlike pills that have to be taken daily, the naltrexone implant is inserted under the patient's skin in the lower abdomen part of the body through an outpatient procedure that lasts less than an hour. Patients reported immediate loss of cravings for alcohol within the next two to three hours.
The effect of the implant lasts for more than six months, lowering the risk for relapse.
BioCorRx is banking on the unique implant to keep patients sober for a longer time, allowing them to address the psycho-social aspects of their addiction.
The life coaching system itself is focused on the future, helping the patients plan for their addiction-free future.
Successful patients of the Start Fresh Program, like Jonas, claim that the coaching sessions are just as important as the medication since it is what allows people to eventually go alcohol-free in the future.
After the use of one implant, patients will no longer need to take naltrexone as long as they have successfully undergone counseling.