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New Alcohol Dependence Drug Available in Scotland

October 18, 2013
A new drug called Nalmefene became available in Scotland this month to help combat alcohol cravings in addicts. The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) decided that the costs and benefits of providing the drug provided good value for money, but in England the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is still evaluating the drug.

Currently, most treatment methods for alcohol dependence mainly involve a non-pharmacological approach. At Cassiobury Park, our treatment methods involve an alcohol detox followed by counselling and therapy combined with good nutrition and stress management techniques. Whilst we believe that this is the best model for overcoming alcohol addiction, our primary concern is for the health and well-being of our patients. If there are alternative methods available then they should be considered as long as they are approved by your doctor. Current drugs which are used for helping alcoholism are used to help maintain abstinence once the patient has already stopped drinking.

Alcoholism

Alcoholism occurs when a person has a strong compulsion to drink alcohol. This can become a physical dependence where withdrawal symptoms can include nausea, sweating, shaking and anxiety. These symptoms are relieved by consuming more alcohol. In time, the body gains a tolerance to alcohol and the user drinks to relieve their withdrawal symptoms.

Many alcoholics find it difficult to quit drinking. Many feel an uncontrollable need to drink alcohol and have little willpower to stop. Alcoholics will often neglect their responsibilities at home, at work or with the family and some will drink in dangerous situations, such as when driving or using equipment. The long term risks of excessive drinking include high blood pressure, stroke, depression, heart disease and liver disease.

Alcoholism is a disease and it needs to be treated as such. For those who are alcohol dependent, it can be nearly impossible to quit without help.

Nalmefene

This treatment works by blocking opiate receptors in the brain, which reduces the cravings in those who are alcohol dependent. This helps them to reduce their consumption. It is taken in a tablet form once a day and trials showed that it reduced alcohol consumption by 60% after 6 months of treatment.

There are side effects, which can include nausea, dizziness, insomnia and headaches. However, most tests showed that these effects are mild and short lived and occur mainly at the start of treatment. It should only be prescribed by a doctor in conjunction with other non-pharmacological treatments such as counselling and stress management.

This medication is presently only available in Scotland, so therefore is not available at Cassiobury Court. If it becomes available then it will be assessed by our medical staff to see how appropriate it is for our treatment and detox programmes.
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