The Best Help for Alcoholics Is One We’re Not Using

There’s a drug treatment for alcoholism, but few are taking advantage of it.

Naltrexone, which has been used for years to help alcoholics avoid relapsing, isn’t as widely used as it should be, say some addiction experts. The reason? Many of the studies that show it can be effective in helping alcoholics to avoid returning to drinking have been conducted with those who were also getting behavior therapy and counseling. So it’s hard to know how much the drug is helping to keep these patients sober.

But a growing number of doctors are looking at naltrexone not as a cure for alcoholism, but as an ally in helping alcoholics to calm their cravings so behavior therapy and counseling, which equip patients with skills to manage their addictions over the long term, can be more effective.

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