Alcohol withdrawal treatments should be improved, as a large number of patients admitted to hospitals could be treated by family doctors or outpatient services according to a new study.
According to Dr. Evan Wood, executive director of the British Columbia Centre on Substance Abuse, family doctors and emergency doctors should use a screening test in order to asses the state and needs of patients before they are admitted into a hospital or they receive treatment.
The meta-study analyzed information from 530 studies which observed over 71,000 patients. The only hospital in Canada that uses such a scale is St. Paul’s hospital located in Vancouver. The Prediction of Alcohol Withdrawal Severity Scale leads to better treatment for the patients and improved cost savings for the system.
The test involves a blood test that measures the current alcohol level and a set of 10 questions. The patient is asked, among other things, if they experience symptoms of withdrawal before, if they suffer from seizures or blackouts, and if they combine alcohol with other substances that may be dangerous.
Doctors trained to use the test may easily identify the issue and prescribe the proper drug for the patients. There are several drugs that reduce craving and binge drinking, which continue to increase around the world.
Woods considers that the system should be updated as training family doctors to properly diagnose and treat such issues, as they could offer an effective treatment before the addiction increases. Cognitive behavioral therapy could also help the patients in the long run.
Abruptly interrupting the alcohol consumption the case of heavy drinkers may lead to serious symptoms such as delirium tremens a state that causes among others hallucinations and delusions. Three drugs are currently approved for withdrawal in Canada and the B.C Centre for Substance Abuse plans to release guidelines for treating alcohol disorders later this year, to inform everyone implied in order to facilitate treatment.
As the effect of alcoholism can affect you for years after the addiction ended, preventive services are an important step in treating the issues. It is estimated that alcohol uses costs $14,6 billion per year in total costs that include health care, lost production and others.