A major shift in thinking about how alcohol and drugs affect the brain is producing more and better medications to treat addiction to drugs and alcohol, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Like antidepressant medication, some newer drugs are designed to repair chemical imbalances and abnormalities in the brain that occur as a result of chronic drug abuse.
Promising medications include brand-new drugs and those already approved for other purposes. Among them: Topiramate – approved to treat epilepsy – for alcoholism and cocaine addiction, and Nalmefene, which was approved in 1994 for alcoholism and is being developed as a six-month implant for both alcoholism and opiate addiction. Federal health officials held a forum Friday at St. Louis University, part of a four-city stop, to raise awareness among doctors and the public about buprenorphine. Marketed under the trade names Suboxone and Subutex, it went on the market in 2003 to treat heroin, prescription painkiller and other opiate addictions. Like a drug called naltrexone, it can be prescribed by physicians in private practice, so “hopefully it will allow addiction treatment to be incorporated into mainstream medical practice,” said Nick Reuter of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.