Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Pill for Alcoholism?

When I was at APA earlier this month, I heard an excellent talk by Dr. Bankole Johnson on the treatment of alcoholism.  I'm currently reading a book called Hooked, by Lonny Shavelson, about an effort by the San Francisco Department of Health to provide drug-treatment-on-demand to all comers in 1998.  The book, a great read even if it is a bit out-of-date, talks about how drug treatment gets divided into camps of those who insist on total abstinence versus those who will settle for a decrease in use as part of the "harm reduction" model.  Dr. Bankole made the point that if you look at total abstinence for alcohol, the numbers are low and one could get very discouraged trying to treat alcoholics.    And he is all in favor of trying medications to reduce craving for alcohol.  Which brings me to an article in the NYTimes by Douglas Quenqua called "Drugs Help Tailor Alcoholism Treatment."  So Dr. Johnson is quoted in this article, and since I enjoyed his talk, I'll mention the article.  It talks about medications that help some people with their cravings-- both on label and off label-- and the question of using a pill to treat an addiction.