ALCOHOLISM IN U.S SOCIETY
Regular heavy use of alcohol results in the hospitalization of millions of Americans annually. Such individuals often experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The Central Nervous system of drunkards usually adjusts to the constant presence of liquor in the body hence chronically depressed. The brain remains in a hyperactive state when there’s a significant reduction or abrupt stop in drinking which leads to withdrawal symptom. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome varies among victims and may even cause death. The symptoms manifest through seizures, headaches, insomnia, agitation, hallucinations, anxiety, and delirium tremens
The “disease concept” of alcohol dependency has been greatly debated. Many researchers argue that alcoholism should not be classified as a disease. They have boldly indicated that alcohol dependence may involve physical dependence and lead to physical diseases but it should not be necessarily considered as a disease itself. However, few other experts believe that problem drinking is an illness. The disease model of alcoholism suggests that a disease that alters the brain structure and functioning of the brain could lead to problem drinking. In fact, this made the American Medical Association recognize alcoholism as an illness in 1956.
Compulsive drug use and addiction mean the same thing but physical dependence is different. Addiction means the inability to seize from using a drug which results in failure to meet obligations. In physical dependence, one’s body adapts to a drug and becomes tolerant thus demanding more from the drug. If one stops using it, they experience withdrawal symptoms.
Pharmacologic treatment is one of the approved remedies for alcohol withdrawal syndrome. The treatment involves using medication that is cross-tolerant with alcohol. Pharmacologic treatment has been proved to be effective. The benefits of pharmacologic treatment include; remedy for sleep disorders including insomnia, remedy for delirium and seizures, treats muscle spasms, and contains anti-anxiety properties. The downside of this treatment is that some also have addictive qualities and withdrawal symptoms. A combination of these drugs with alcohol or other drugs could be deadly.
. Alcoholism is a critical issue in the United States since it affects millions of families. Statistics indicate that one in every three Americans has consumed an amount of alcohol that would be deemed at risk of alcohol dependence. Moreover, dependence and abuse of alcohol are related to hundreds of deaths annually due to alcohol-related injuries and diseases. The yearly economic cost of alcohol dependence and abuse also runs into hundreds of billions of dollars (AAFP). Alcoholics cannot abstain from consuming alcohol, and most do not meet either family, social or work obligations. From one year to another, general hospitals have reported a huge number of patient admissions due to medical conditions related to alcohol use or alcohol withdrawal syndrome. The untimely death of many alcoholics and the hospitalization of many others has prompted intensive research to discover remedies for alcoholism.
Researchers have conducted studies that have unraveled much about the biological factors that are part and parcel of drug abuse and dependence. The brain is an essential specimen of study when it comes to addictive disorders like alcoholism. Therefore, experts have been able to narrow down to studying the brain chemistry and neurotransmitter systems that condone dependence. Such extensive information has made it easier for scientists to develop drug therapies useful in treating addictive disorders.
Factors leading to alcohol dependence include psychosocial, environmental, and genetic. Professionals have tapped on psychotherapeutic and psychosocial means to develop relapse prevention. Pharmacotherapy, alongside behavioral therapy, has also proved to be effective in preventing relapse and boosting abstinence. Pharmacotherapy medications approved by the FDA to be used for treatment of alcoholism disorder include (Jung & Namkoong 2006);
• Disulfiram (aversive agent)
• Acamprosate (anti-craving agent)
• Naltrexone (anti-craving agent)
Other drugs that have been researched and used but have not been approved by the FDA include; fluoxetine, topiramate, and ondansetron. Topiramate is used as an anticonvulsant while the rest are used as serotonergic agents. Both types of agents play a significant role when it comes to treating alcohol dependence. Recent studies have indicated that all three can significantly decrease drinking and intensify abstinence rates (Williams, 2005).
Two of my best pharmacotherapy medications would be Naltrexone and Acamprosate. Both are anti-craving agents. Acamprosate helps heighten abstinence while decreasing relapse rates. Naltrexone equally diminishes relapse rates and elevates abstinence rates. The use of Naltrexone comes along with several benefits including;
• Boosts the natural defenses of the body and its immune system
• Fights inflammation in human body
• Helps alleviate pain
• Ability to decrease seizure risk
• Helps fight cancer
• Improves quality of life and mood
• Decreases the effects of Alzheimer’s
• Reduces symptoms of Parkinson disease
• Reduction of rhinorrhea and lacrimation
However, use of Naltrexone could lead to side effects such as nausea, increased spasticity, problem sleeping, upset stomach, and bloating. Other disadvantages include; not safe for individuals with liver disease or have had an organ transplant and are taking immunosuppressive medication. Also, because it blocks opioid receptors in the body, it’s not advisable for people taking medicines that are opioid activators.
Acamprosate is an effective drug that has been proved by researchers to significantly reduce relapse to drinking (Blackwell, 2010). However, it cannot be used by individuals with kidney problems or those allergic to the drug. Side effects of Acamprosate include; chest pain, suicidal tendencies, headache, diarrhea, fever, back pain, hernia, vomiting, varicose veins, nausea, depression, hypotension, hemorrhage among others.
Although the side effects of using pharmacotherapy may appear to be distressing, that might not always be the case. The drugs have been studied for long and have been approved for a reason. They are effective and safe for consumption; therefore, the side effects would be mild if any, and won’t last long. I would recommend anyone dependent on alcohol to seek help by considering pharmacotherapy as a treatment.
Jung, Y.-C., & Namkoong, K. (2006). Pharmacotherapy for Alcohol Dependence: Anticraving Medications for Relapse Prevention. Yonsei Medical Journal, 47(2), 167–178. http://doi.org/10.3349/ymj.2006.47.2.167
Wiley-Blackwell. (2010, September 17). Acamprosate prevents relapse to drinking in alcoholism, review finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 15, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100907210819.htm
Williams, S. (2005). Medications for Treating Alcohol Dependence. Aafp.org. Retrieved 17 February 2018, from https://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/1101/
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