, Volume 6, Issue 5, pp 332-338

Recent advances in the pharmacotherapy of alcoholism

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Alcoholism is a devastating illness that leads to great societal losses. Despite significant health consequences, there are few medically based treatments for alcoholism. During the past decade, a better understanding of the neuroscientific underpinnings of addiction has led to the use of novel pharmacotherapeutic treatments for alcoholism. In particular, there have been new developments in the understanding of the involvement of the dopamine, opiate, serotonin, gammaaminobutyric acid, and glutamate neurotransmitter systems in the pathophysiology of alcohol withdrawal, alcohol dependence, and in subtypes of individuals with alcoholism. In this article, new developments in the pharmacotherapy of alcohol dependence will be reviewed. In particular, the use of anticonvulsants in alcohol withdrawal and protracted abstinence syndromes will be discussed. Data on naltrexone, acamprosate, and topiramate will be highlighted. In addition, data concerning the use of serotonin reuptake inhibitors in subtypes of alcoholism and the use of combination pharmacotherapy will be reviewed.