Yesterday, PGDF staff had the honor of attending a lecture by renowned researcher and physician Dr. Charles O’Brien at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. The talk, entitled “Modern Treatment of Alcoholism,” advocated for a treatment approach that combines use of modern medication therapies coupled with counseling and other support.
Dr. O’Brien, whose research was instrumental in the FDA’s approval of the use of naltrexone for treating alcohol-use disorder, discussed the genetic basis of alcoholic behavior, as well as differences in brain activation in response to alcohol-related cues in an alcoholic person versus a non-alcoholic person.
O’Brien expressed his belief that alcoholism should be considered a medical condition, diagnosed and treated by primary care physicians. Especially in light of the Affordable Care Act provision that requires substance use disorders to be covered by health insurance, O’Brien advocates for medical schools to increase time spent learning about addiction. Currently, many counselors and physicians are unfamiliar with modern methods of treatment, including medication, and refer patients to mutual help groups only. In his opinion, this treatment is insufficient. O’Brien presented some of his research on naltrexone, illustrating its efficacy in treating patients with alcohol-use disorder, especially when used in conjunction with counseling.