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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Behavioral Health

SAMHSA Releases New Guidance on Medication Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

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New guidance for expanding the use of medication assisted treatment was issued last week by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA). The tool aims to help providers expand access to treatment for those living with alcohol dependence or abuse. Produced in partnership with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the guidance provides additional information on medications used to treat alcohol use disorder.

According to SAMHSA, 18 million people met the criteria for alcohol dependence or abuse in 2013, with only 1.4 million receiving any form of treatment. The guidance analyzes the effectiveness of available medications approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that are used to treat alcohol use disorder, prevent relapse or both. The list of alcohol dependence or prevention medications analyzed includes: disulfiram, oral naltrexone, extended-released injectable naltrexone, and acamprosate calcium.

This guidance also addresses key topics and recommendations for providers on how to implement medication-assisted treatment into their practice, including the use of medications. The key topics include:

  • Considering medications based on FDA-approved indications and a patient’s unique needs and circumstances
  • Screening a patient for risky alcohol use
  • Assessing need for medication-assisted treatmentDeveloping a treatment plan and selecting a medication
  • Treating a patient with co-occurring disorders
  • Monitoring a patient’s progress

While the guidance analyzed the benefits of certain medications, it notes that “medications should be prescribed as part of a comprehensive treatment approach that includes counseling and other psychosocial therapies (through referral to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or professional counselor) and social supports (through participation in Alcoholics Anonymous and other mutual-help programs).”

Read the full guidance here.