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J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2001 Feb;21(1):72-7.

Posttreatment results of combining naltrexone with cognitive-behavior therapy for the treatment of alcoholism.

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  • 1Medical University of South Carolina, Alcohol Research Center, Charleston, USA.


Naltrexone, an opiate antagonist medication, has been reported to be efficacious in the treatment of alcohol dependence when added to psychosocial treatments. Although the within-treatment efficacy of naltrexone has received primary attention, there has been little published on the outcome of individuals once the medication is discontinued. Animal studies have led to concern regarding a quick rebound to heavy drinking. This report extends the data previously reported by evaluating the outcome in alcoholic subjects during the 14 weeks after a 12-week treatment with naltrexone or placebo in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy. Of the 131 subjects evaluated during the treatment phase, 124 (95%) had up to 14 weeks of posttreatment drinking data available for analysis. Measures of craving and blood markers of heavy drinking were also evaluated. By the end of treatment, naltrexone demonstrated significantly greater efficacy than placebo. However, once the medication was discontinued, there was a gradual increase in relapse rates, heavy drinking days, and drinks per drinking day, and fewer days of abstinence were reported. By the end of the 14-week follow-up period, although naltrexone-treated subjects were, on average, still doing better than control subjects, the effectiveness of naltrexone was no longer statistically significant. There was no evidence that naltrexone subjects had an immediate return to heavy alcohol use as suggested in animals. These data suggest that, for a number of alcoholic subjects, continued treatment with naltrexone, or perhaps psychosocial intervention, for longer than 3 months is indicated. Future research should identify which alcohol-dependent individuals may need prolonged treatment to improve treatment success in the long term.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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