Symposium to Examine Latest Treatments for Alcohol Withdrawal

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Michael Fingerhood, MD

The latest information on current medical treatments for alcohol withdrawal syndrome and a look ahead at how genetic information could help drive treatments will be presented Saturday during Symposium 8, “Evidence-Based Approaches to Alcohol Detoxification and Treatment.”

Three speakers during the session, presented from 4:30 to 6:30 pm in Orange Ballroom A, Lower Level, will look at managing patients, counseling options, and the latest evidence for the use of medications, said Michael Fingerhood, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University, and a symposium organizer and speaker.

Darius Rastegar, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins, will discuss how to manage a patient through alcohol withdrawal.

“He will examine the evidence for different types of medications because there are a lot of options besides benzodiazepines for managing withdrawal,” Dr. Fingerhood said. “People, particularly primary care physicians, may wonder if they can do this safely in an outpatient setting, and when they should admit someone as an inpatent. What is a person’s risk for withdrawal?

“They may ask, ‘Do I just help people take this every X number of hours or do I do this symptom-driven, where I decide how to treat based on specific symptoms?’

Kenneth B. Stoller, MD, Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, will review literature about counseling patients going through alcohol withdrawal.

“He will take an evidence-based look at counseling, and Alcoholics Anonymous as a modality for ongoing alcohol use disorder treatment. How effective is it? We are going to look at the actual evidence for Alcoholics Anonymous,” Dr. Fingerhood said.

Dr. Fingerhood will review the latest evidence about medication for alcohol use disorder when counseling fails.

“Three medications are approved for use, and there will be a discussion of additional medications that have recently been in the literature for treatment of alcohol use disorder to try to reduce drinking or prevent relapse,” Dr. Fingerhood said. “Preventing relapse has been frustrating because most studies show a limited effect on preventing relapse.”

Those recent publications focus on groundbreaking research such as genetic-based treatment and anticonvulsant medications.

“There is some recent literature looking at the fact that alcohol-use disorder isn’t the same in all people,” Dr. Fingerhood said. “The idea of pharmacotherapy for alcohol-use disorder may be based on some genetic testing to predict which medications will work.

“One paper I will discuss was ePublished in the last month. Some papers deal with predicting who will respond to a particular medication, and others focus on the side effects and effectiveness of anticonvulsant medications.”