Alcohol use disorder: pathophysiology, effects, and pharmacologic options for treatment

Subst Abuse Rehabil. 2014 Jan 23;5:1-12. doi: 10.2147/SAR.S37907. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

Alcohol use disorders (AUD) continue to be a concerning health issue worldwide. Harmful alcohol use leads to 2.5 million deaths annually worldwide. Multiple options exist for the management of dependence on alcohol, not all of which are approved by drug-regulating agencies. Current practice in treating AUD does not reflect the diversity of pharmacologic options that have potential to provide benefit, and guidance for clinicians is limited. Few medications are approved for treatment of AUD, and these have exhibited small and/or inconsistent effects in broad patient populations with diverse drinking patterns. The need for continued research into the treatment of this disease is evident in order to provide patients with more specific and effective options. This review describes the neurobiological mechanisms of AUD that are amenable to treatment and drug therapies that target pathophysiological conditions of AUD to reduce drinking. In addition, current literature on pharmacologic (both approved and non-approved) treatment options for AUD offered in the United States and elsewhere are reviewed. The aim is to inform clinicians regarding the options for alcohol abuse treatment, keeping in mind that not all treatments are completely successful in reducing craving or heavy drinking or increasing abstinence.

Keywords: abuse; alcohol; alcoholism; craving; dependence; relapse.

Publication types

  • Review