Treating alcoholism without aa Treating alcoholism naturally Treating alcoholism and depression Treating alcoholism with niacin Treating alcoholism with drugs Treating alcoholism with wine Treating alcoholism as a chronic disease Treating alcoholism with . Treatment making B.C. debut offers alcoholics the option of social drinking, Vancouver Sun

Dr. Diane Rothon, a Victoria-based addictions specialist, is joining Alavida Health Ltd. PROVINCE Treating alcoholism.

A Finnish-developed treatment for alcoholics that claims to allow them to continue social drinking is being introduced to North America this year by a Vancouver startup company.

A B.C. addictions specialist joining the company acknowledged that the notion of treating alcoholics without detox or abstinence is a new one here.

The newly formed company, Alavida Health Ltd., has licensed a Finnish treatment involving a combination of drug therapy and counselling that has been used in that country for more than 20 years, Alavida CEO Elliot Stone said Tuesday.

His company has teamed with Dr. Diane Rothon, a Victoria addictions specialist, to begin offering the program in B.C. this summer, with the aim of expanding to the rest of Canada and the U.S. by the end of the year.

“The notion of anything other than complete abstinence for alcoholism is dimly regarded,” said Rothon, who served briefly as B.C.’s chief coroner in 2010, and has worked with alcoholics in prison settings and the courts. “I don’t know if I’d use the word ‘revolutionary,’ but the (North American) statistics are poor on the ability of alcoholics to drink slightly or moderately without relapsing.”

Rothon, who has treated alcoholics for more than 30 years, said she was encouraged by data from Finland’s Contral Clinics, which use the widely-available drug naltrexone, which reduces the pleasure the brain gets from drinking. North American doctors have prescribed daily doses of the drug to help drinkers quit drinking.

The Finnish program combines counselling with targeted use of the drug — users are counselled to take the drug an hour ahead “in anticipation of drinking,” enabling them to drink less than they would otherwise, Rothon said.

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Historically, North American treatment for alcoholics has relied on the notion of absolute abstinence from alcohol popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous.

“AA is a fantastic program, absolutely, it has saved hundreds of thousands of lives over the years,” said Rothon, but she noted that “its rigidity of tolerating only abstinence has been unattractive to a large majority of individuals who could otherwise be helped.”

Rothon, who will serve as Alavida’s chief medical officer, said those treated by the program would have the choice of abstaining altogether, or continuing with social drinking.

“For all of them, it must include a reduced intake of alcohol, there’s no question,” she said. “They can’t just keep drinking at the same level that is damaging their lives, their jobs and their families.

“There are a lot of reasons why people wish to continue to drink … for example, people in the business world for whom a cocktail at lunch is just being social and part of the team.”

Rothon said abstinence “is great for some people, it’s just not the answer for everyone. I had always been distressed by the fact that we had only one tool and that it wasn’t working for all patients.”

CEO Elliot said their $5,000 four- to six-month program would involve in-person and online counselling, as well as the drug therapy. The company has other doctors and counsellors on staff, he said.

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