Drug Curbs Alcoholism—but Should Addicts Drink at All?

With drug, alcoholics still drink; abstinence is traditional model
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 29, 2009 10:30 AM CDT
A new pill called baclofen may lessen cravings for liquor among alcoholics.   (Wikimedia Commons)
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(Newser) – More and more doctors are prescribing the anti-craving drug baclofen to alcoholics, and patients describe a “switch” that suddenly allows them to resist temptation—even as they keep drinking in moderation, Time reports. While some argue this can reduce harm—one drink is better than 10—the approach is at odds with traditional 12-step and cold-turkey methods of dealing with addiction.

Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs involve complete abstinence, and doctors often won’t treat drug users who refuse to quit. Proponents of baclofen say insisting on total sobriety from day one keeps many addicts from getting treatment. More testing is required before baclofen becomes widespread, but according to one doctor, “Patients who can drink small amounts are the exception. My advice is, ‘Don’t risk it.’”