New drugs might be the answer to alcoholism and over-the-top backpackers. Or are they?

Photo: David Boyle

Looks like the next wave of treatment for alcoholism is here. Pretty darn soon, one can use a drug to deal with their drinking problem.

Well, it seems this treatment has been around for some time, but is only now beginning to get some heat behind it. According to an article in New Scientist magazine, Markus Heilig of the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) stated:

The dogma has been that you can’t treat a chemical addiction with another chemical…It’s well-meaning but naive, and in the end very destructive.

Clinical trials are happening, big pharma is very interested in getting treatment meds on the market (shocking, I know), and Heilig and his colleagues are hoping for alcoholism’s “Prozac moment” (i.e. the depression therapy “revolution” caused by the release of Prozac).

We’ve already debated at BNT whether alcohol is necessary to connect on the road, which prompted varied responses (some find it completely unnecessary, while others feel it is quite helpful in breaking down barriers and getting to know the locals).

Of course there is a big difference between having a couple of pints and being an alcoholic. But what might this type of pill mean for those travelers who need it, or even more importantly, don’t realize they need it?

Drinking, Drugs, and Travel

Sure, the loudmouth backpacker making slightly insulting comments at the other end of the bar can be funny…for the first hour. But what happens when you start seeing this guy drunk all the time during your week in Dehli – including daytime? Guy’s got an issue.

Worse yet, what if you are traveling with someone who has to have a drink to enjoy herself, even during a hiking breather in Munich or to check out the Uffizi in Florence? Sure, having a glass of wine during lunch is like feeling the European flava, but c’mon now, we have to be sober for some part of the trip, right?

I do wonder sometimes how much alcohol ends up changing the travel experience.

I do wonder sometimes how much alcohol ends up changing the travel experience. I know it can be a good thing, giving you lasting memories of “that crazy night we had in Madrid.” But there is an unfortunate amount of over-doing it that occurs, as with any drug, and it might be impacting us more negatively than we realize at the time.

The Answer?

Yet…I know this may seem out of character (har har), but I’m not so psyched at the idea of using a pill to treat alcoholism. Yes, I understand that medication could help save people that otherwise wouldn’t be able to recover.

On the other hand, as even the New Scientist article notes, some experts believe the benefits of SSRIs like Prozac have been greatly over-exaggerated, and in fact, have even been shown to cause suicidal thoughts.

I can’t help but wonder what the side effects of these alcohol drugs might be, and if they will give people the chance to look deeply inside to figure out where the problem stems from in the first place.

Still, that guy in Dehli seriously needs some help.

What do you think about the use of drugs to cure alcoholism? Share your thoughts below.