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.
- 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.