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Treating Alcohol Dependence

Experts Issue New Guidelines on Treating Alcohol Dependence

(NewsUSA) - In a departure from established therapy that views and treats alcohol dependence as a behavioral problem and not a disease, health experts issued new guidelines supporting the combination of medication and professional counseling in treating alcohol dependence.

Recent clinical evidence and scientific discoveries published in the Journal of Alcohol Studies show alcohol dependence is a disease with a genetic basis.

The guidelines, appearing in a publication titled "HelpingPatients Who Drink Too Much: A Clinician's Guide," provide a newclinical-based approach to alcohol screening by primary care and mental health care providers. The guidelines were discussed by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at a recent American Medical Association media briefing on alcohol dependence.

"Very often people who are alcohol dependent are seen byphysicians for other illnesses and never diagnosed with alcoholdependence," said Dr. Mark L. Willenbring, director of the Division of Treatment and Recovery Research at the NIAAA. "Clinicians can now more aggressively identify, diagnose and treat alcohol dependence using a comprehensive disease management approach ... on par with what is currently the accepted norm for depression, diabetes and hypertension."

Alcohol and drug abuse costs the U.S. economy an estimated$276 billion a year in lost work, health care costs, crime, traffic accidents and other expenses, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

Of the 30 percent of Americans considered risky drinkers,about one-third is dependent on alcohol. Alcohol dependence, as the most severe form of alcohol abuse, tends to result in the most negative consequences, including impaired driving, interpersonal problems and injuries.

For more information on alcohol dependence, log on to www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/booklet.htm or call the NIAAA at (301) 443-3860.

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