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New Strategy to Counter Problem Drinking

inence, he added.

Karhuvaara is a physician and health researcher who was once an employee of Biotie Therapies Corp., the manufacturer of nalmefene. The drug maker supported the new study.

There are fair amounts of good data (showing) that the more drinks you have a day, the more likely you are to have health or social consequences, said alcohol researcher Raymond Anton.

The thinking is that if you can reduce heavy drinking days or the number of drinks per drinking day, you might actually alleviate some suffering, even though you dont cause the person to be abstinent.

Not everyone who seeks alcohol treatment is ready to consider a lifetime without alcohol, so an abstinence goal can be a barrier for some people considering help.

Many health professionals are convinced that a harm reduction approach can draw more people into treatment, said Anton, director of the Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs at the Medical University of South Carolina. Anton did not participate in the Finnish study, but he has conducted nalmefene research in the United States.

The Finnish researchers note some side effects among people in the nalmefene group, including nausea, abdominal discomfort, as well as energy and sleep difficulties. However, most study participants remained in the trial and continued using the drug.

I wish theyd done an analysis to see if the people who suffered those side effects were the same people who drank less. Perhaps some of the reduction in drinking may have been because they didnt feel so good, rather than because the drug just took away an urge to drink, Anton said.

Patients must take most medications for alcohol treatment daily. Nalmefene taken as needed fits into the harm reduction treatment approach.

The drug is an opioid antagonist that works to block the effects of endorphins. The U.S. Food and Drug Administrat
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