Alcoholism and other alcohol use disorders are major public health problems, and the success rates of non-pharmacological treatment of these disorders such as psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy, or residential treatment programs, remain only modest at best. High rates of recidivism (relapse) in alcoholics attempting to remain abstinent are prevalent worldwide. In recent years abundant evidence has accumulated demonstrating that alcoholism is a complex and multifaceted disease of the brain caused by numerous genetic, neurobiological, developmental, environmental, and socioeconomic factors that are still not yet fully understood. There is thus a great need to improve the success rates of all forms of treatment of alcoholism not only in preventing relapse, but curbing active alcohol consumption and craving. The development of improved pharmacotherapies that could be used as adjuncts to the aforementioned non-pharmacological treatment approaches is one avenue of great interest to the scientific community and the general public. Currently there are only three medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the treatment of alcohol abuse and alcoholism - disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate. Yet medication compliance issues and the modest efficacy of these compounds leave substantial room for improvement. This special issue is devoted to reviewing the current status of these FDA-approved medications in the treatment of alcoholism. In addition, preclinical and clinical evidence suggesting that other classes of medications might also be of potential use are reviewed, including anticonvulsants, GABAB receptor agonists, cholinergic receptor partial agonists, corticotropin-releasing factor and cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonists, nociceptin receptor ligands, and the novel antipsychotic aripiprazole.
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