New Study Supports Drug Effective in Treating Alcohol and Opioid Dependency

First Posted: May 14, 2014 08:46 PM EDT

Similar to the study discussed earlier today about drugs that can help those with alcohol dependency issues, researchers from Oregon State University found similar results in their study of the drug Naltrexone.

Naltrexone, which you can read about in this article as well, is an extended-release tablet that is taken orally and is prescribed to regulate chemicals in the brain altered by alcohol consumption. As a result, the patient will experience less cravings for alcohol and decrease their binge drinking. But the Oregon State researchers found that an injectable form of Naltrexone administered once a month can reduce both alcohol and drug abuse effectively.

The study, "Extended-release Naltrexone for Alcohol and Opioid Dependence: A Meta-Analysis of Healthcare Utilization Studies," was published in the Journal of Substance Abuse. Dan Hartung of the Oregon State University/Oregon Health and Science University College of Pharmacy was the study's lead author.

"Historically, oral medications for substance abuse have not often been prescribed or found to have a high degree of success, mostly because patients stopped taking them," Hartung said in this OSU news release. "But there are patients who are committed to treating their problems and data showed that they clearly appear to have success with extended-release Naltrexone, which is administered just once a month."

The drug would be injected by a medical professional once a month, which has the same effects as taking it orally every day. After reviewing five other papers and 1,565 patients who received Naltrexone along with nearly 60,000 patient who received therapy for their drug and alcohol use, the researchers found that the drug was more effective and much cheaper (even though it still costs about $1,100 per month).

Alcohol abuse is a well known issue and is omnipresent in society as a whole. The World Health Organization reported 3.3 million deaths in 2012 as a result of harmful alcohol consumption. But opioid misuse has also been an issue for years, with nearly 2 million people in the U.S. abusing the drugs and an estimated total of 12-21 million worldwide. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick recently declared a state of emergency on the widespread use of the drugs.

Despite Naltrexone's high cost, the researcher's note that it is much cheaper than traditional forms of therapy for drug/alcohol abuse, and it does not require a strict regimen, which typically causes people to hop off the wagon.

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