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Alcoholism, or Alcohol Dependence is the excessive use and abuse of alcoholic drinks which becomes addictive. Excessive alcohol consumption can cause tremor, sweating, hallucination, depression, anxiety and insomnia, and lead to a number of diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, liver disease, liver and bowel cancer, pancreatitis, and many other serious medical conditions.

Conventional Medical Treatment for Alcoholism

The conventional medical treatment of alcoholism, "depends on the extent of your drinking and whether you're trying to drink less (moderation) or give up drinking completely (abstinence)".

Brief intervention

Conventional treatment begins with a short counselling session (5-10 minutes) which seeks to ascertain the drinking habits, the impact drinking has on the patient, and the wishes of the patient known as a brief intervention. It may involve the keeping of a drinking diary to monitor alcohol consumption. A sensible start!

Detox and Withdrawal symptoms

Patients who have become dependent on alcohol to function are recommended to seek medical advice to manage withdrawal symptoms, and may be prescribed drugs and asked to attend self-help groups, receive counselling, or use a talking therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The problems of detoxing, and withdrawal symptoms are discussed, with patients receiving regular visits from health staff, or within a hospital setting.

Therapy for Alcohol Dependency

Non-medical treatment includes attendance at self-help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and Family therapy.

Drugs for alcohol dependency

The drugs used in detox and withdrawal are then outlined, and it is at this stage when conventional treatment begins to look potentially harmful to the patient.

Acamprosate: Acamprosate, or Campral, is used to help prevent a relapse in people who have successfully achieved abstinence from alcohol, and that it is usually used in combination with counselling to reduce alcohol craving. It reduces levels of a chemical in the brain called gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA), which is thought to be partly responsible for inducing a craving for alcohol. Unfortunately, this drug is also known to cause a large number of side-effects, including extreme sadness or emptiness, fear, severe depression, and many more.

Disulfiram: Disulfiram, or Antabuse, is used for patients trying to achieve abstinence but are concerned about relapsing. It works by causing unpleasant physical reactions after drinking alcohol, including nausea, chest pain, vomiting and dizziness. These side effects are intentional, and can apparently last for some time after taking the drug. Moreover, the other side-effects include eye pain or tenderness, changes in vision, mood or mental changes, numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness in hands or feet, darkening of urine, light gray-coloured stools, severe stomach pain, yellow eyes or skin, drowsiness, decreased sexual ability in males, headache, skin rash and unusual tiredness.

Naltrexone: This drug is used to prevent a relapse or limit the amount of alcohol consumed, and works by blocking opioid receptors in the body, stopping the effects of alcohol, and is usually used in combination with other drugs or counselling. The serious side-effects include streptococcal pharyngitis, syncope, anxiety, arthralgia, arthritis, dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, frequent headaches, headache, joint stiffness, nasopharyngitis, nausea, nervousness, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic attack, pharyngitis, posttraumatic stress disorder, sedation, sinus headache, vomiting, induration at injection site, malaise, pain and tenderness at the injection site, muscle cramps, muscle rigidity, muscle spasm, stiffness,

depression, and twitching.

Nalmefene: Nalmefene, or Selincro is used to prevent a relapse or limit the amount of alcohol someone drinks by blocking opioid receptors in the brain, seeking to reduce cravings for alcohol. Again, the serious side effects include nausea, vomiting, tachycardia, and hypertension.