An old treatment is making a comeback in the battle against alcoholism. The drug is called Naltrexone and it has shown some success in curbing cravings in alcoholics.
It works by blocking brain chemicals that trigger the euphoria from drugs and alcohol. It's a pill, the problem is it only works if patients take it every day.
So now, scientists are experimenting with another way to deliver Naltrexone instead of a pill a day, patients come in once a month for their shot to reduce the alcohol craving. Kenneth McKnight says the shot is helping him break a nearly 20 year drinking habit.
"And it really works, no way to explain it to you. The cravings aren't there, that's the whole deal," he says.
"These meds will not cure you. They make it easier for you to learn and understand the new coping skills you have to develop to stay sober," explains Dr. Harold Urschel, pyschiatrist.
A study of more than 600 men and women found the injection curbed heavy drinking in men by nearly 50% compared to a placebo. Unlike the pill version, the Naltrexone shot had no effect on women and researchers can't figure out why. The Naltrexone injection could be up for FDA review sometime next year. It will be marketed under the name Vivitrex.
It is also being tested as a treatment for drug addiction. The only real side effect of the Naltrexone injection was pain at the injection site.
It's estimated that up to 18 million people in the U.S. suffer from alcohol dependence or abuse. Alcohol abuse is the cause of more than 100,000 deaths in America each year and costs Americans a total of $184.6 billion annually.