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Thursday, July 28, 2011

How cognitive assessment through clinical neurophysiology may help optimize chronic alcoholism treatment

Alcohol dependence constitutes a serious worldwide public health problem. The last few decades have seen many pharmacological studies devoted to the improvement of alcoholism treatment.

Although psychosocial treatments (e.g. individual or group therapy) have historically been the mainstay of alcoholism treatment, a successful approach for alcohol dependence consists in associating pharmacologic medications with therapy, as 40–70% of patients following only psychosocial therapy typically resume alcohol use within a year of post-detoxification treatment.

Nowadays, two main pharmacological options, naltrexone and acomprosate, both approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, are available and seemingly improve on the results yielded by standard techniques employed in the management of alcoholism.

However, insufficient data exist to confirm the superiority of one drug over the other, and research is ongoing to determine what type of alcohol-dependent individual benefits the most from using either medication.

Available data on the application of both drugs clearly suggest different practical applications. Thus, a fundamental question remains as to how we can identify which alcoholic patients are likely to benefit from the use of naltrexone, acamprosate or both, and which are not.

The aim of the present manuscript is to suggest the use of cognitive event-related potentials as an interesting way to identify subgroups of alcoholic patients displaying specific clinical symptoms and cognitive disturbances.

We propose that this may help clinicians improve their treatment of alcoholic patients by focusing therapy on individual cognitive disturbances, and by adapting the pharmaceutical approach to the specific needs of the patient.

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