Drug And Alcohol Abuse Medications Shown to Improve Patients’ Lives


Source: University of Oxford

Summary: Researchers have found that commonly used medications for alcohol and opioid addictions have been shown for the first time to reduce the risk of suicidal behaviour and accidental overdose.


Researchers from the University of Oxford, the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, the University of Colorado and Örebro University, Sweden, studied more than 21,000 individuals in Sweden who received treatment with at least one of four medications used to treat alcohol and opioid use disorders (acamprosate, naltrexone, methadone, and buprenorphine). They compared rates of suicidal behaviour, accidental overdose, and crime for the same individuals during the period when they were receiving the medication compared with the period when they were not. Finally, they found that commonly used medications for alcohol and opioid addictions have been shown for the first time to reduce the risk of suicidal behaviour and accidental overdose. The study findings were published in the journal American Journal of Psychiatry.

alcohol abuse

Drug and alcohol abuse medications shown to improve patients’ lives. Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Most of the drugs were effective in reducing the incidence of all of the outcome measures (suicidal behaviour, arrest for any crime, arrest for violent crime, accidental overdose). These medications reduced the risk of suicidal behaviour by up to 40%, accidental overdoses up to 25%, arrest for any crime by up to 23% and arrest for violent crime by up to 35%. However, methadone treatment increased the risk of accidental overdose by 25%. Deaths from overdoses of prescription and illicit opioids have increased in many countries, contributing to substantially reduced life expectancy. Nonfatal overdoses are also common. Studies have shown that 30%-80% of people who use illicit drugs regularly have experienced at least one nonfatal overdose.

Prof. Seena Fazel said, “Substance abuse has huge effects on public health including premature mortality, infectious diseases, and chronic health problems, which makes it imperative that we find a safe and effective way of helping people with addictions to regain control of their lives.”


More Information: Yasmina Molero et al, “Medications for Alcohol and Opioid Use Disorders and Risk of Suicidal Behavior, Accidental Overdoses, and Crime”, American Journal of Psychiatry (2018). DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.17101112


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