What You Can Learn from Ibudilast’s Potential for Alcoholism Treatment

Excessive alcohol use can lead to serious health problems, but a new study explores the drug ibudilast as a potential new alcoholism treatment. But regardless of whether it ends up being used in treatment programs, its study highlights the driving forces of alcoholism, and acts as a reminder of the importance of treatment programs that properly address the many facets of this addiction.

“Alcohol ruined me financially and morally, broke my heart and the hearts of too many others,” said Craig Ferguson, a Scottish-American actor and comedian in his book American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot. “Even though it did this to me and it almost killed me and I haven’t touched a drop of it in seventeen years, sometimes I wonder if I could get away with drinking some now.”

Alcohol’s pull over us is almost unimaginable—it can influence the way that we think and feel, and when in the midst of addiction it can feel as though an invisible hand is guiding our actions. This influence is why we need strong treatment plans to help guide the recovery process. As Ferguson wrote, “Whether I or anyone else accepted the concept of alcoholism as a disease didn’t matter; what mattered was that when treated as a disease, those who suffered from it were most likely to recover.” There are a number of psychotherapies and medications available nowadays, but that doesn’t stop treatment specialists from constantly searching for new ways to loosen the grip of addiction and help people fighting alcoholism break free from its grasp.

Ibudilast as a Potential New Alcoholism Treatment

Exploring new avenues for alcoholism treatment fosters hope for those actively seeking to begin the recovery process, and a new study continues to support recovery research for those in the midst of struggles with the difficult disease. The study reveals that the asthma medication ibudilast may curb your cravings for alcohol, improve your mood when you’re confronted with it during periods of abstinence, and reduce its pleasurable effects, an effect that was very prominent in those with depression—a common struggle for people with alcohol issues. Although the exact way that it works on the brain is still not known, and given the fact that drug addiction hijacks the pleasure and reward systems in your brain, a drug that can make something like alcohol less desirable is a finding ripe with potential.

The study also didn’t find it to be a dangerous substance: it’s non-addictive, and side effects are minor, especially in the face of the potential for addiction treatment that if offers. “Ibudilast is safe and well-tolerated,” said Lara Ray, lead author of the study. “This medication can be safely administered, including when people are drinking alcohol.” As of now, naltrexone, also used for opioid withdrawal, is the only other drug that offers the same benefits, although it is only recommended to be used after the acute effects of alcohol withdrawal have passed, limiting its potential.

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The Driving Forces of Alcoholism

Future studies will continue to probe ibudilast for its potential in treating alcoholism, but until then, we need to look at the primary way it’s believed to work: by decreasing the rewarding effects of alcohol. By honing in on the importance of this effect for recovery, we can guide research on the treatment of alcoholism towards finding the best therapies for recovery.

Take cravings for example: these arise when your brain thinks that something is going to give you pleasure. “Many researchers claim that anything that is highly rewarding for somebody can elicit strong cravings, because the reward center has ‘learned’ to anticipate the pleasure it brings about,” said Wilhelm Hofmann, an assistant professor from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “So, anticipated reward is, in a sense, the ‘common currency’ of the brain by which various activities are evaluated.”

Using coping skills learned in therapy, you can learn more about what triggers your alcohol cravings—obviously alcohol itself, but maybe also when you’re stressed out about work, or get into arguments with your spouse or significant other—and learn how to deal with them in an adaptable way. In a sense, you learn to anticipate your brain’s response to pleasure just as it anticipates the pleasure that you get from alcohol. It’s a difficult struggle, but one that can be won with tools offered by the right treatment.

Another thing to take note of from the study is that in people with symptoms of depression, ibudilast’s ability to curb alcohol’s mood-altering effects and allure seem to be even more prominent. Alcoholism and depression are known to occur together frequently, with anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of people who have alcohol use issues also living with clinical depression. The finding reminds us of this connection and should be taken as a sign that treating both concurrently is a necessity, not an option. Treating alcoholism alone might decrease your alcohol intake, but when a depressive episode blindsides you, you might find yourself revisiting the same old patterns of alcohol use in order to cope.

Alcoholism is a struggle that is lifelong—you will always be in recovery, and remembering this is key to remaining aware of any bumps in the road ahead and overcoming them. If ibudilast is eventually approved for treating alcoholism, it may be used as a tool to help you fight your cravings during your recovery. But regardless, the foundation for recovery should always be comprehensive residential treatment. Through this treatment, you can learn to control your triggers and urges and gain a better understanding of how your brain reacts to alcohol, and the importance of controlling these reactions to continue living a positive life of recovery.

Alta Mira offers comprehensive addiction rehabilitation for people struggling with alcoholism. If you are looking to learn more about your relationship with alcohol and how it shapes your actions, contact us today to get started on curbing its negative influence on your life.