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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Effects of Vivitrol on Homeless Alcoholics

Finding ways to curb drinking habits among problem drinkers is as beneficial to alcoholics as it is society. New understandings in brain chemistry have led to doctors using a drug that was once used solely on opioid addicts. The drug Vivitrol (extended release naltrexone) is a once a month injection that has shown promise when it comes to reducing cravings for alcohol. Unlike Antabuse, Vivitrol does not make individuals sick if they happen to consume alcohol, but rather, it “acts as a pacifier to quiet brain receptors that are crying out for more alcohol,” said clinical psychologist Susan Collins, Ph.D., of the University of Washington.

A new study was conducted by the University of Washington on homeless alcoholics who were given monthly injections of naltrexone, PsychCentral reports. Most alcohol treatment programs for homeless expect participants to abstain from drinking completely; the new study did not set any goals for participants using a non-judgmental approach, allowing them to set their own goals for achievement.

The program lasted 12-weeks, participants met regularly with physicians involved in the study for monthly injection and to set their own goals for treatment. The results of the treatment showed decreases in:
  • Alcohol craving by 33 percent.
  • Alcohol consumed on typical and peak drinking days by 25 percent and 34 percent.
  • Frequency of alcohol use by 17 percent.
  • Problems associated with alcohol use by 60 percent.
“We think the initial results suggest that extended-release naltrexone and harm reduction counseling is a promising means of supporting reductions in alcohol use and in reducing alcohol-related harm among chronically homeless, alcohol-dependent individuals,” said the researchers.

“At the same time,” they cautioned, “the findings should not be over-interpreted. This was a small, single-arm, open-label study. Larger-scale, well controlled studies are needed to test treatment efficacy.”
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