Thursday, April 23, 2009

I'll Drink to That! (Or Maybe Not)

Here's a loaded question: "Can You Drink Your Way to Sobriety?" The surprising answer is: Maybe.
The reason that such a non-committal answer is surprising is that simple common sense would dictate that the answer be "no way." Yet it's the premise behind a new treatment protocol being touted by Dr Roy Eskapa (Ph.D).
According to Dr Eskapa, there's a drug called naltrexone which apparently represses the opioid receptors in one's brain (these are what enable us to "feel high"). According to proponents of this method, if those receptors don't fire, "the addictive behavior ceases, and the problem drinker therefore loses interest in liquor."
That may be good news for alcoholics (or those predisposed toward alcoholism).
The "catch" is that, for the therapy to be be effective, the patient must continue to imbibe (if only for a while). That seems to me to be a rather sticky conundrum: isn't that going to continue to cause liver damage, for example? And then there's the insurance issue: is this going to be a covered expense?
That, of course, depends on what one's policy says. Unfortunately, most plans exclude expenses for things like smoking-cessation programs; it seems to me that this is akin to such regimens. And the cost can be prohibitive: the injectable form (which is apparently more attractive than the oral version) can run $700 a pop. The article says "(m)any health insurance plans pay for the injections," but I found no evidence cited to support this; it seems unlikely that this is the case. Perhaps IB readers with experience in this area could enlighten us?
Although this seems a promising avenue for treatment of this illness, it seems to me to be like the elusive "magic pill" that instantly helps one lose weight with no side effects or effort. I'll give the last word to Dr Harold C. Urschel III (M.D.). Dr Urschel, who helps run a well-known Dallas addiction treatment center, observes:
"It would be nice if all you needed was one pill ... But alcoholism is not just uncontrolled drinking. It's a chronic medical disease and needs to be addressed in a multifaceted fashion."
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