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Feature Article

Treating alcohol dependence: managing withdrawal and preventing relapse

KATHERINE M. CONIGRAVE, ROWENA IVERS, KIRSTEN C. MORLEY, PAUL HABER

Figures

© sturti/istockphoto.com models used for illustrative purposes only
© sturti/istockphoto.com models used for illustrative purposes only

Abstract

One in 25 adults in Australia becomes dependent on alcohol at some stage. GPs play a key role in earlier detection of alcohol dependence and can provide treatment for withdrawal (where safe to do so), relapse-prevention medicines and support.

Key Points

  • GPs are the first point of contact with the health system for most problem drinkers.
  • GPs can provide earlier detection of problem drinking and deliver brief interventions to raise motivation for change.
  • Many alcohol-dependent people can safely undergo withdrawal from alcohol at home, supervised by their GP with daily-dispensed diazepam.
  • Medications such as naltrexone, acamprosate and disulfiram can be prescribed by the GP after withdrawal is complete to reduce cravings for alcohol and prevent relapse.
  • Relapse-prevention medicines can be combined with individual or group relapse-prevention approaches.
  • A small number of alcohol-dependent people will require (or accept) referral to an addiction specialist or to inpatient detoxification services.

Figures

© sturti/istockphoto.com models used for illustrative purposes only
© sturti/istockphoto.com models used for illustrative purposes only