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Pharmacotherapy for Alcohol Use Disorder

Oral naltrexone 50 mg/d and acamprosate should be first-line pharmacotherapies for alcohol use disorder, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials of at least 12 weeks’ duration. The agents should be used in conjunction with psychosocial interventions.

“Data from 118 clinical trials and 20,976 participants were included,” write the authors, who noted that neither agent appeared superior to the other. “The numbers needed to treat to prevent 1 person from returning to any drinking were 11 (95% CI, 1-32) for acamprosate and 18 (95% CI, 4-32) for oral naltrexone at a dose of 50 mg/d. Compared with placebo, oral naltrexone (50 mg/d) was associated with lower rates of return to heavy drinking, with a number needed to treat of 11 (95% CI, 5-41). Injectable naltrexone was associated with fewer drinking days over the 30-day treatment period (weighted mean difference, −4.99 days; 95% CI, −9.49 to −0.49 days). Adverse effects included higher gastrointestinal distress for acamprosate (diarrhea: risk ratio, 1.58; 95% CI, 1.27-1.97) and naltrexone (nausea: risk ratio, 1.73; 95% CI, 1.51-1.98; vomiting: risk ratio, 1.53; 95% CI, 1.23-1.91) compared with placebo.”

Source: JAMA