Drugs

Moderate Alcohol Dependence Subsides With Nalmefene: How To Best Treat Dependency

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Nalmefene can prevent you from overdoing it when drinking with your friends. Photo courtesy Reuters

Many picture alcoholics as those who have lost their jobs and family due to their addiction. But what happens to people in the gray area who suffer from alcohol dependency not quite bad enough to need a trip to rehab? That’s where nalmefene may come in. The Danish drug promises to help people solve their alcohol problem, not by giving up the drink, but by merely cutting down. It’s controversial, to say the least, but regardless may be available throughout the UK before the end of the year.

Just how “bad” does a drinking problem have to be to warrant complete abstinence from alcohol? According to those backing the new UK drug, men who drink three pints of beer and women who drink two large glasses of wine every night need control their drinking but not exactly stop it all together. Nalmefene “seems to block some of the reward we get when we drink, which for some of us seems to help us keep drinking when we would otherwise know we shouldn’t,” Dr. David Collier, from the William Carver Research Institute, told The Telegraph in a video interview.

The drug would cost around a little less than $5.00 a pill. It is nowhere near a miracle cure to alcohol abuse, but according to Collier, “is a helpful way of reaching out to people who at the moment are getting nothing.” Nalmefene would enable adults to enjoy one or two drinks without feeling the need for more.

“Some have not yet experienced social problems and are functioning well until they develop an alcohol-related physical illness, such as high blood pressure, cancer, or liver disease,” said Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Trust.

Theoretically, nalmefene could prevent this from ever happening. If approved by Britain’s National Health Services, the drug could be prescribed to up to 600,000 adults in England, the Daily Mail reported.

Others, while not doubting that nalmefene will work as intended, wonder if medication is the best approach to a control substance abuse. “It’s not a good thing to try and medicate a way out of a social problem. There are lots of opportunities for people to reduce the urge to drink for people who drink a lot of alcohol so that they drink less," Dr. Mark Bellis, alcohol lead for the Faculty of Public Health explained to The Telegraph.

Along with the moral dilemma of giving people medication to help them deal with their alcohol problems, Bellis suggested that this drug could pose an unnecessary economic burden for the UK’s social health care system. "There are plenty of ways that don't require prescribing and the additional pressures on the NHS that could reduce harmful drinking,” he said.

Nalmefene users reported a 64 percent to 79 percent drop in total alcohol intake, compared with placebo users who only experienced a 49 to 64 percent decrease, Bloomberg reported. The drug is already prescribed in Scotland, which according to the BBC, has the highest alcohol-related death rate in the UK. It may be available in the rest of the UK by next year. 

 

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