Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a complex brain disease, however, when it is accompanied by other diseases like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the treatment becomes complicated as treating both the disorders simultaneously may turn out challenging. Nevertheless, a recent study led by researchers from the Yale University stated that gradually increasing the intensity of treatment for AUD may improve the treatment results in patients suffering from both the disorders.
Taking a cue from previous studies on integrated treatment for opioid addiction and HIV, the researchers wanted to verify if treatment for AUD and HIV would have similar positive results because most patients with HIV are unaware of or not seeking treatment for their alcohol abuse, treatment is often segregated.
According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report, about 14.5 million people aged 12 or more suffer from an AUD. Apart from physical and psychological problems, alcohol abuse leads to high risk sexual behaviors leading to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) such as HIV and syphilis. It has been estimated that 8 to 42 percent of people suffering from AUD also have HIV, and misuse of alcohol accelerates the development of the virus in patients already suffering from the disease.
Increased intensity of AUD treatment
The group of researchers led by Dr. E. Jennifer Edelman, an associate professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, conducted random clinical trials in 5 HIV clinics with 128 patients suffering from both HIV and AUD. They used the integrated step alcohol treatment (ISAT) approach which involved increasing the intensity of AUD treatment in case results were not achieved during lower intensity treatment.
The first step focused on the use of medications for AUD treatment. If that did not stop heavy usage of alcohol, behavioral therapies were included as the second step to motivate a change in drinking behavior. If the patient still continued heavy drinking (which was defined as 5 or more drinks for men and 4 or more drinks for women on a daily basis), they were referred to a residential treatment center providing 24/7 alcohol abuse help. Those who were not in the ISAT group continued their usual treatment program which included alcohol screening, intervention, and referral to an alcohol addiction treatment center.
While both the groups reported reduced intake of alcohol after a period of 6 months, there was no difference in the reduced number of drinks or HIV results. However, after a period of 12 months, patients in the ISAT group showed far better response to treatment compared to those in the control group. They reported having fewer drinks as well as a higher percentage of days practicing total abstinence.
ISAT showed improved HIV treatment outcomes
Talking about the findings, Dr. Edelman said that along with the decrease in the intake of alcohol, ISAT helped patients take their HIV medications which in turn assisted in controlling the virus growth.
Praising the scientists for their work, George Koob, director the at National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), said that the findings of the study can help improve treatment outcomes for AUD and HIV patients and also highlight the importance of an integrated treatment program for alcohol addiction.
Dr. Edelman’s findings were further validated by Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, a senior investigator in the Intramural Research Program at NIAAA. Dr. Leggio said that stepped care has been found to be effective in the treatment of various other chronic ailments. The study findings also suggested a connection between AUD and HIV treatment and explored the integration of both the treatment protocols as it also highlighted the need for a health care sector to recognize AUD as a medical disorder which can be integrated with a variety of treatment programs.
Seeking treatment for AUD
Binge, heavy, and chronic drinking leads to alcohol abuse and finally an addiction. Alcoholism creates several problems in professional and personal lives along with harming the user’s physical and mental health. Fortunately, AUD is treatable with the help from professionals.
In case you or a loved one is battling an alcohol use disorder or an addiction to alcohol and is looking for credible alcohol abuse treatment centers, then get in touch with our 24/7 Alcohol Abuse Helpline. Call us at 866-480-6873 and speak with one of our representatives so they can connect you with the best detox treatment center. You can also chat online with a member of our admissions team for further assistance.