Several medications can help people with alcohol use disorders maintain abstinence or reduce drinking, say researchers.
Daniel Jonas, lead author of the study and professor in the department of medicine and the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, led a team from the RTI-UNC Evidence-based Practice Center to review published studies examining the use of drugs to treat alcohol use disorders.
The researchers conducted a systematic review of 122 randomized controlled trials and one cohort study. They then graded the strength of the evidence on the impact of drugs on alcohol consumption.
They found that two drugs, acamprosate (brand name Campral) and oral naltrexone (brand name Revia), have the best evidence supporting their benefits. Both drugs reduced return to drinking and improved other drinking outcomes. Among medications used off-label (i.e., those not FDA approved for alcohol use disorders), moderate evidence showed improvement in some drinking outcomes for topiramate and nalmefene.
Jonas said the health implications of preventing return to drinking and reducing alcohol consumption are substantial.
He said modeling studies have shown that such improvements would result in significant reductions in alcohol-attributable mortality, costs from health care, arrests and motor vehicle accidents.
The work has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).