For hundreds of years practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine have prescribed kudzu to help reduce alcohol craving. Animal studies over the past two decades here in the West have shown it effective, as well. But it wasn’t until last year’s double blind clinical trial at the Harvard Medical Center and McLean University that many addiction specialists took note.
According to lead researcher Dr. Scotty Lucas of McClean Hospital, subjects treated with kudzu root consumed approximately half the amount of alcohol as those who were administered a placebo.
I’d been following kudzu research for quite a while and it’s why I recommended the herb as an important supplement when I published My Way Out a year and a half ago. More recently, working with a highly regarded herbalist, we developed our own proprietary blend because we could not find a product that matched the exact concentrated extract and isoflavanoid levels as those in the Harvard/McLean study. Many US brands are comprised of fillers or other benign ingredients. We introduced our product several months ago and it’s been selling like crazy - our customers rave about it.
For more about the kudzu study, listen to this interview with Dr. Lucas by NPR’s Michelle Norris. And for details about the study, see this article on our research site. To learn more or to purchase our Kudzu Rescue, visit our health store.
This is one of the best articles I’ve read in some time about advances in pharmacotherapy for treating alcohol dependence. You’re sure to learn something new in this well researched cover story from Chemical and Engineering News. Here’s an excerpt:
“‘We know that out of the 8 million or 9 million people in America with alcohol dependence, maybe 100,000 get medication, which is essentially nobody,” [David R. Gastfriend, Alkermes’ vice president of medical affairs] says, although about 2 million per year seek treatment. “Since 1935, at the outset of the Alcoholics Anonymous movement, we’ve had one major approach to treating alcohol dependence, and that is talking. And we have taken that, it seems, about as far as we are going to get with it,” he says. He believes medications will be a crucial part of future treatment.’”
An excellent and revealing article by Janet Firshein at PBS’s “Moyers on Addiction” site brings to light the physiological basis for craving and how it can lead to relapse. Computer imaging confirms that changes in the brain occur in areas specific to the drug consumed - and take place prior to ingestion.
Firshein compares addiction to other long-term diseases like hypertension, a familiar analogy because it’s the one often cited by our medical director, Dr. Linda Garcia. An internist and addiction specialist, she treats patients for both conditions and says the parallels are important in understanding how to develop an effective, individualized, multi-faceted recovery program.
One of the reasons I’m so passionate about treating alcohol dependence with multiple therapies is founded in that very premise. Medication and nutritional supplements may work quickly to blunt craving, but long term behavior changes are equally important. It’s why I’m convinced strategies like hypnotherapy, positive visualization, relaxation and EFT are critical. I believe they are some of the most powerful tools in addressing the conditioned response that’s apparently hard wired in our brains.
The key, says Firshein, is in identifying cues which lead to relapse and then “talk back to the urges”. I can’t imagine any more powerful place to do this than the subconscious mind and I’m sure it’s why self-hypnosis has been effective for so many people who follow our program.
I encourage you to read the article and explore the site, it’s fabulous.
By the way, this animated presentation is one of many on the site and depicts GABA function before and after alcohol consumption. One of my goals for MWO is to develop a collection of visual tools like this which can be called upon during hypnotherapy to “reverse” the process and break the cycle. Sorta like biofeedback…on steroids.
I’m easily bored so am always looking for ways to liven up the workout routine or incorporate new ways of keeping healthy. The latest experiments in my arsenal include:
* Aromatherapy. I’ve developed a growing interest in the healing powers of highly concentrated extracts from herbs, flowers and other plants. Dr. Edward Bach’s work in this area is fascinating. He was a prominent English physician and herbalist in the 1930’s who rediscovered the benefit of flower essences in treating emotional, mental and spiritual illnesses. Here’s an excellent overview provided courtesy of Candy Hilldebrand, an Australian flower essence practitioner.
* Short exercise workouts. Have no idea if this is hype or if it really works, but hey, I’m game and I could certainly use a break from the dreadmill. I’m going to test drive Quatro Fitness, Ryan Lee’s Four Minute Workouts. Members in his forum say they enjoy the cardio and toning benefits of the mini-routines, which are are typically combined into a 12 to 20 minute or so workout and are done three days a week. Lee is a personal trainer whose goal was to create a fitness system for busy people. Each routine is presented online in animation, which is pretty cool. They’re apparently short but fairly intense and okay for beginners. It costs $10/month to subscribe (keeps you active in their forum and provides new routines), so I figured it’s worth a try. Will report back. BTW, here’s what the “new girls’ push ups” look like. Whew - I was never very good at those.
* Meditation music. It’s not usually my style, but I’ve found a play list of new age music that I absolutely love. It’s recommended for meditation but I find it’s fabulous background music when I’m at the computer. Very calming and pretty and a really nice balance when you’re in “work mode”. It cost just under $10 to download from iTunes, and well worth it. You’ll find it here.
Good news for those awaiting Vivitrol, the once monthly injectable naltrexone. According to reps at pharmaceutical company Cephalon, they’ve removed the primary roadblock in providing the medication to patients.
The impediment was apparently a program called VIP3 (Vivitrol Information for Patients, Physicians and Providers) which was originally established to support management and distribution of the meds. Unfortunately, the well intentioned program became a quagmire soon after its launch and left doctors, patients - and pharma reps - hugely frustrated with paperwork, delays, and confusion about getting their hands on the drug.
Cephalon says they’ve responded to feedback from their unhappy customers and will now streamline distribution. Vivitrol will be available from “local specialty pharmacies or from the five national specialty pharmacies that we currently have contracts with” according to an insider with whom I spoke.
Naltrexone is an “opioid antagonist”. It blocks the pleasurable effects of alcohol and helps reduce cravings. Results from clinical trials indicate it does a fine job of it, too. Patients who received the Vivitrol achieved a significantly greater reduction in heavy drinking days than those who got a placebo.
This development is great news for patients who need help and the physicians who treat them. Way to go, guys.
According to Molly Hurley Moran, professor of writing at the University of Georgia, “Giving up alcohol was not a sacrifice; it was an act of imagination.” Loved this piece. You’ll find it here.
That from a retired NY police offer about the new $79 fully functionial alcohol breathalyzer accessory for the iPod. Sounds a little nuts, but hey, if it’ll keep drunk drivers off the road, who can complain?
Sept 12, 2006, © 2006 The Associated Press
Mylan Gets FDA OK on Generic Topamax Drug
PITTSBURGH — Pharmaceutical company Mylan Laboratories Inc. said Tuesday it received regulatory approval for a generic version of epileptic seizure treatment Topamax, making it the first challenger for the drug’s $1.37 billion U.S. market.
It’ll be interesting to see how long this takes and how much the generic will cost. Currently, Ortho-McNeil’s topiramate runs anywhere from $160 to $300 per month for a 200 mg daily dose. Info gathered from both legit and “no Rx required” sites.
Those of you who’ve read my book know about Dr. Bankole Johnson’s topiramate research and the important role Topamax - and other anti-craving medications - play in treating addiction. Dr. Johnson has been very supportive of my work and was helpful to us when we published My Way Out.
In a recent interview Dr. Johnson talks about alcoholism, recovery, and what his research may mean for those who suffer with alcohol dependence.
From Brown Alumni magazine:
“A Cheaper Way to Quit: New study finds therapy with medication may be the key to sobriety
Think it takes a month in detox to quit drinking? Think again. The largest-ever study of alcohol treatment programs, whose results were published in the March Journal of the AmericanMedical Association, found that the disease responds best to the same approach used to treat hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, or any other illness with a behavioral component: medication and regular visits with a counselor or medical professional.”