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Am Fam Physician. 2005 Nov 1;72(9):1775-80.

Medications for treating alcohol dependence.

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  • 1Psychology Service, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Lebanon, Pennsylvania 17042, USA.


Medications for treating alcohol dependence primarily have been adjunctive interventions, and only three medications--disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate--are approved for this indication by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Disulfiram, an aversive agent that has been used for more than 40 years, has significant adverse effects and compliance difficulties with no clear evidence that it increases abstinence rates, decreases relapse rates, or reduces cravings. In contrast, naltrexone, an anticraving agent, reduces relapse rates and cravings and increases abstinence rates. Acamprosate also reduces relapse rates and increases abstinence rates. Serotonergic and anticonvulsant agents promise to play more of a role in the treatment of alcohol dependence. Although not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this indication, the anticonvulsant topiramate and several serotonergic agents (e.g., fluoxetine, ondansetron) have been shown in recent studies to increase abstinence rates and decrease drinking.

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