Popping pills to curb drinking

This headline:

Popping A Pill Can Help Some Alcoholics Curb Drinking

From this finding:

On average, one out of nine patients was helped by naltrexone.

This might be important for that one out of nine person (Though the abstract doesn’t describe the threshold for determining that it helped.) but it hardly seems worthy of that literally accurate but unjustifiably breathless headline.

Then there’s this:

There is also a lingering attitude that the treatment of alcohol dependency must rely solely on psychological or spiritual methods.

“People in 12-step programs typically don’t believe in medications for the treatment of alcoholism,” Erickson said. “Therefore they are unlikely to accept anyone into their 12-step meetings who is on a medication like naltrexone. Secondly, they would not want to accept it for themselves, unless a physician talked them into it as part of their treatment plan.”

In addition, most large alcohol treatment centers, with the exception of Hazelden, do not advocate for the use of medications in the management of addiction, he said.


I like Carlton Erikson, but this is absurd.

His seriously overstates anti-medication attitudes in AA. (Note the age of these studies and the fact that more than 41% of the AA members in the second study have taken a medication for an emotional problem. Is he saying that the attitudes toward anti-relapse meds are vastly different? )

Secondly, the largest treatment provider in the country provides methadone. In this area, there are more programs that prescribe naltrexone and buprenorphine than not. The growth in the number of prescriptions is nothing to sneeze at.