A drug called nalemefene has been approved by the Scottish Medicines Consortium as a treatment for alcohol addiction. Many people are making impressive claims for this substance, with some calling it a wonder drug that should be used to treat alcoholism everywhere in the UK. It will be great if these claims are true, but it is hard to not to be cynical because similar claims have been made many times in the past. There are many good reasons to believe that pharmaceutical agents are never going to be enough to deal with the alcoholism problem.
Quitting Alcohol is the Easy Part of Ending the Addiction
The problem with medical treatments for dealing with addiction is that they tend to ignore the underlying issues involved. There is likely to have been reasons why the person turned to alcohol in the beginning, and these reasons are likely to be still there when they become sober. Most alcoholics will be able to quit drinking for a few weeks or months (sometimes every years), but the real problem is not stopping; it is staying stopped. If a drug like nalemefene can make it easier for people to reduce their alcohol intake then it is impressive, but it is not going to get to the root of the problem.
It is usually much more effective in the long term for people to enter some type of alcohol rehab program to break away from addiction. The goal of this sort of facility is not to simply get them back to square one. The goal is to give them all the tools they need to build a much better life, one where they no longer feel the need to use alcohol.
The problem with not dealing with the underlying causes of addiction is that the person remains vulnerable. Even if they manage to stay away from alcohol, they are still going to be struggling in life. This is because they do not have the effective coping strategies they need to face the challenges that the universe sends their way. The person may be able to avoid relapse, but there is a high likelihood they will turn to new maladaptive behaviours.
Should Nalemefene Be Made Available Right Across the UK?
Any treatment that can make life easier for those dealing with addiction should be warmly welcomed. It is important to be cautious though when it comes to anything that is being promoted as a miracle cure; such claims should be met with a high degree of scepticism. The drug companies are going to make a fortune if this pharmaceutical agent is adopted across the UK, so any claims they make are likely to be biased.
The real risk with nalemefene is that the claims for this drug could convince people to abandon treatment programs that are already working for them. Going to rehab and attending fellowship meetings involve a significant commitment, so it sounds much easier to just swallow a pill. These other treatments have been tested over decades and have been shown to be effective – the same cannot be said for nalemefene.
If this new drug is to be adopted across the UK, it makes sense to use it in conjunction with available treatments rather than as a replacement. If the claims for nalemefene turn out to be true, it will then be reasonable to offer it as a treatment in its own right. It just seems too much of a gamble to do this right away.