Quality & Science

More Choices for Your Patients: New NIAAA Publication Outlines Options for Treating Alcohol Problems

by The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism | February 13, 2015

NIAAA Treatment Guide For Alcohol ProblemsClinicians now have a new resource to share with patients struggling with an alcohol use disorder (AUD). The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, has developed a guide to help individuals and families understand available treatment options. Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help covers the latest research-based treatments and what to consider when choosing among them.

An estimated 17 million Americans currently have an alcohol use disorder. However, research suggests that only a fraction of people with alcohol problems seek professional help. No matter how severe the problem may seem, most people with AUD can benefit from some form of treatment.

This new resource helps clinicians start a conversation with their patients about a wide variety of treatment options, including effective but underutilized approaches.

“The popular concept of alcohol treatment is often limited to knowledge of inpatient rehab or 12-step programs,” said NIAAA Director Dr. George Koob, PhD.

“In fact there are diverse treatment options of which people may be less aware, and many of which can be undertaken with minimal disruption to home and work life. A greater understanding of these options represents a contemporary approach to this problem and an important step toward improving the way we treat alcohol addiction.”

The guide provides detailed descriptions of the two types of professionally-led treatments shown to benefit people with alcohol use disorders, which are:

  • Established behavioral treatments which focus on changing drinking behaviors
  • Medications, which are often coupled with behavioral treatment

The guide also includes information about mutual-support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Clinicians should be aware that the US Food and Drug Administration approved three medications to help people with alcohol problems stop or reduce their drinking and prevent relapse. These medications – naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram – are non-addictive and can be used alone or in combination with behavioral treatment. All can be prescribed by a primary care physician.

In addition to the information on treatment options, the guide offers patients advice on when and how to get help including:

  • Signs of an alcohol problem
  • Questions patients can ask their doctors to help guide their treatment choices
  • Advice for friends and family
  • New medications in the pipeline

Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help can be found online here.Hard copies can be ordered by calling 1-888-MY-NIAAA (888-696-4222) or going online.