The 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) was the first nationally representative survey to ask respondents who received treatment for alcohol addiction if medications were part of their care. A new review in JAMA Psychiatry used data from this survey to understand how many Americans receive medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for alcohol use disorder (MAT).
There are currently four FDA-approved medications for treating AUD. Still, only 7.3% of those with alcohol use disorder in 2019 received any treatment for it at all; just 1.6% used MAT for their AUD. 
Receiving MAT for alcohol use was associated with greater AUD severity and more frequent emergency department visits. People using MAT for alcohol use disorder were also more likely to be receiving mental health care; the authors suggest that that is because people with co-occurring mental health disorders have more severe AUD.
This review highlights the importance of expanding access to MAT for alcohol use disorder; using medications along with therapy and other supports has been proven effective and can help people get their lives back. In some cases, literally—alcohol is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the US. lt is a factor in about 18.5% of emergency department visits. In 2019, drunk driving accounted for 28% of car accident fatalities.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the three most commonly used medications for AUD are acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone. Acamprosate helps people who are no longer drinking stay sober; disulfiram produces uncomfortable side effects when drinking alcohol, which can help people stay away from it; naltrexone blocks the euphoric effects of alcohol and helps reduce cravings.
MAT is useful to consider when treating alcohol use disorder. As SAMHSA put it, “Medications used for MAT are evidence-based treatment options and do not just substitute one drug for another.”
If you are struggling with addiction or a mental health disorder, there is hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for substance use and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. We offer MAT (suboxone and vivitrol) to help gradually free you from substances. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.