Current Psychiatry Reports

, Volume 8, Issue 5, pp 383-388

First online:

Choosing the right medication for the treatment of alcoholism

  • Helen M. PettinatiAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Treatment Research Center Email author 
  • , Amanda R. Rabinowitz

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In the past decade, scientists have made important progress toward understanding the neurobiology underlying an alcohol disorder. This knowledge has led to the development of promising pharmacotherapies that target the neural pathways involved in the brain’s reward center in such a way that the usual treatment response (via counseling) is substantially improved upon. There are now four US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved pharmacotherapies for the treatment of alcohol dependence: disulfiram (Antabuse; Odyssey Pharmaceuticals, East Hanover, NJ), oral naltrexone (ReVia; Barr Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Pomona, NY), acamprosate (Campral; Forest Laboratories, Inc., New York, NY), and, as of April 2006, an extended-release (30-day) injectable suspension formulation of naltrexone (Vivitrol; Alkermes, Inc., Cambridge, MA). Other types of medications (eg, topiramate and quetiapine) are currently under investigation for the treatment of alcohol dependence. Research also has provided insights into best practices for prescribing the available medications. This report reviews the latest innovations in pharmacotherapy for the treatment of alcohol dependence, focusing on FDA-approved medications presently available to the treatment community.