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What’s the best way to treat problem alcohol use?

CAMH scientists weigh the evidence in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry

June 26, 2012 – Scientists from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) have released comprehensive reviews of the most effective treatments for alcohol dependence, one of the most prevalent addictions in Canada.

Published in the latest edition of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, the reviews explore the most effective treatments and interventions for problem alcohol use and concurrent disorders. Almost 40 per cent of people with an alcohol use problem also have a concurrent mental illness, particularly schizophrenia, mood or anxiety disorders.

The reviews can serve as the go-to resource for researchers and decision-makers who fund or deliver treatment and support services, in Canada or internationally. The papers cover the following topics:

Using medication to treat drinking problems: Dr. Bernard Le Foll, Clinician Scientist and Head of CAMH’s Alcohol Research and Treatment Clinic within the Addiction Medicine Service, discusses the effectiveness of common medication therapies available for problem alcohol use. Dr. Le Foll and colleagues stress that those effective medications are under-used despite their effectiveness and that treatment for people with concurrent disorders is especially crucial considering their increased risk for morbidity.

Psychosocial treatment for alcohol dependence: Dr. Jürgen Rehm, Director of CAMH’s Social and Epidemiological Research (SER) Department examines the effectiveness of psychosocial treatments to help treat drinking problems. With co-author Dr. Garth Martin, Dr. Rehm finds that cognitive-behavioural therapies, motivational therapy and brief interventions have the strongest research evidence for effectiveness, but notes that greater attention needs to be paid to ensure that therapists deliver care in a consistent manner, in order to minimize varied outcomes.

The societal burden of not treating alcoholism: Dr. Brian Rush, Senior Scientist and Head of the Health Systems and Health Equity Research Group contributes a guest editorial on the two reviews, and looks at the five factors that need to be in place for these interventions to have an effect at a population level. He concludes that treatment and support can have an impact in reducing the burden to society and costs incurred by the criminal justice and healthcare systems.

To read the full papers, please visit the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry

Media Contact: Michael Torres, Media Relations, CAMH; 416-595-6015

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The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world's leading research centres in the area of addiction and mental health. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues.

CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre.

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