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Q&A with Dr. Koob about Treatment for Alcohol Problems

George Koob, PhD, is Director of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

What is the primary goal that you want to achieve with this new publication?

Our primary goal is to help individuals and families understand that there are diverse treatment options for alcohol problems and that integrating different types of treatments can—and should—become the norm for people who need them.

Is the historical stigma of addiction diminishing as alcohol research teaches us more about its chemical and genetic foundations?

We would certainly hope so. However, stigma remains a significant problem for people addicted to alcohol and other substances, and a major obstacle to seeking treatment. We believe that stigma will continue to diminish as more and more people see the benefit of treatment for alcohol problems.

What are the major reasons that many people don't know about FDA-approved medications that can help curb alcohol problems?

It may be because medications are still a relatively recent addition to alcohol treatment modalities, "competing" against more well-known options. Even many treatment providers are unaware of the various medications that have become available for treating alcohol problems.

What does the future of alcohol abuse research hold?

The future holds promise for a substantially reduced public health burden of alcohol misuse to our society, through carefully targeted therapies, such as traditional counseling as well as medicines that can help fight alcohol addiction. Ideally in the future, health professionals would be able to identify which treatment will be most effective for each person based on genetics and other factors.

On the research side, NIAAA will continue to study the underlying causes of alcoholism in the brain and body, and we are confident that we will develop additional medications and therapies as a result of these efforts.

Fast Facts

  • An estimated 17 million Americans currently have alcohol problems, clinically diagnosed as an "alcohol use disorder" (AUD).
  • About 1.4 million adults received treatment for an AUD at a specialized facility in 2012 (8.4 percent of adults in need).
  • Nearly 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol related causes annually, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
  • In 2006, alcohol misuse problems cost the United States $223.5 billion. Alcohol contributes to over 200 diseases and injury-related health conditions, most notably alcohol dependence, liver cirrhosis, cancers, and injuries. In 2012, alcohol accounted for 5.1 percent of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) worldwide.
Read More "Alcohol" Articles

Treating Alcohol Problems / Q&A with Dr. Koob about Treatment for Alcohol Problems

Winter 2015 Issue: Volume 9 Number 4 Page 27