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Anxiety, alcoholism, and baclofen - Input Junkie
September 22nd, 2009
01:16 pm


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Anxiety, alcoholism, and baclofen
The End of My Addiction by Olivier Ameisen is a cardiologist's account of becoming an alcoholic, and, after trying a number of things that didn't work or didn't do much (AA and Rational Recovery, rehab, antabuse, various other drugs, acupuncture, and cognitive behavioral therapy), discovered that relatively high doses of baclofen (a muscle relaxant) not only completely suppressed his craving for alcohol, but also suppressed the anxiety which was driving the alcoholism. He's found AA and CBT to be very valuable, but not effective for his alcoholism.

Baclofen is a drug which has been used for a long time for neurological problems, and has a good record for safety. However, it's no longer under patent, and there's no one who's interested in putting up the $500,000 which it would cost to test it for helping with addictions. This surprises me-- admittedly, the companies that make it don't want to do any favors for their competitors, but why isn't some government or charity interested in this?

Part of what's interesting about the book is the portrayal of prejudice against alcoholics (probably against addicts in general)-- the author mentions that he got significantly worse hospital care for alcoholism than for other problems.

Also, the craving for alcohol cuts into quality of life in a big way (whether the person drinks or not) but is generally not considered to be a problem worth treating.

He'd been saying for years that he drank because of his anxiety. People would tell him that if he stopped drinking, his anxiety would go away. This simply wasn't true, and they had no reason to think it was true.

(3 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:September 22nd, 2009 07:29 pm (UTC)
Noticing that some alcoholics are really trying to self-treat anxiety disorders doesn't solve the problem that the problem is badly treated. "Bad" treatment in the sense of blaming patients for their condition and not trying to treat them, and also in the sense that the best treatment in the world isn't all that good. Most attempts to treat long-standing alcoholism don't work very well. Most attempts to treat serious anxiety don't work very well, either. It's worth trying, sure...there are more effective treatments now than there used to be, and they work for some people. But a lot of medical problems are essentially fixable these days, so it's terribly frustrating to confront the ones that aren't.
[User Picture]
Date:September 22nd, 2009 07:58 pm (UTC)
Part of the situation is that alcoholics are apt to do awful things. There are reasons to dislike them. Still, if the consequence is that a cure gets ignored, even prejudice against alcoholics is a problem.
[User Picture]
Date:September 22nd, 2009 09:45 pm (UTC)
I did my master's internship at an outpatient addiction clinic.

It was one of the most eye opening and deeply distressing (and also humanizing) experiences of my life.
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