Medical treatment of alcoholism can reduce alcohol consumption
Tuesday, 25 November 2014
Medical treatment of excessive alcohol consumption in adults can significantly reduce alcohol consumption in patients (after 12 weeks). This is according to the Federal Center of Expertise on Medical Care (Cente Fédéral d’expertise sur les soins du santé (KCE), which has based its opinion on several studies. Two treatments available in Belgium, acamprosate and oral naltrexone, influence consumption and the risk of falling off the wagon after a period of abstinence. Naltrexone also reduces the risk of returning to a high consumption, but has many side effects. The KCE adds that long term health benefits have not been noted.
Nalméfène, also available in Belgium, improves certain results (a high reduction in the percentage of drinking days per month). However, the difference with the group given placebos was less than 2 days a month.
The strict trial data also does not confirm the efficency of disulfiram, a fourth treatment available in Belgium.
Finally, the data shows the results for most treatments prescribed without market authorisation, like Baclofen. There is either not enough proof that they reduce consumption, or they prove they don’t work.
According to the Flemish Association for problems linked to drugs and alcohol (Association Flamand pour les problems liés à l’alcool et autres drogues (VAD), around 5% to 7% of the Belgian population have problems with regular problematic consumption (defined by the OMS as a regular average consumption equal to or more than 40g a day for a woman and 60g for a man). It is estimated that one in 7 male deaths and one in 13 female deaths can be linked to alcohol. This mean only 10% of people dependant on alcohol are treated.