A new study publizhed in the online journal AIDS and Behavior suggest that addictive behaviors can be higher among people living with HIV — from smoking to heavy drinking. But there are clinical drugs to help fight the urges.
Investigators at Yale University led a study examining how effective extended-release naltrexone (brand names ReVia and Vivitrol), a medication primarily used to manage alcohol or opioid dependence, is at reducing heavy drinking among people living with HIV.
Under the direction of a physician, naltrexone can help reduce the number of days an addict will heavily drink by reducing cravings that certain people develop when they drink regularly. As an opiate antagonist, the treatment also helps with opiate withdrawal.
Findings suggest that the drug works well, regardless of whether heavy drinkers are HIV-positive or not. According to the study, 51 people living with HIV (all of whom exhibited heavy drinking) were observed from April 2011 and February 2015. The vast majority (nearly 95 percent) were adherent to antiretrovirals.
Researchers found that with extended-release naltrexone, clinically significant decreases in heavy drinking was observed.
"While we know that patients with heavy alcohol use are less likely to take their medications for HIV, there is a paucity of interventions that target alcohol use to improve how patients take their medications," stated Jennifer Edelman, M.D., lead author and associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine. "Extended-release naltrexone is a medication that is safe and effective for patients living with HIV that can be delivered in HIV treatment settings that could potentially help this problem."
Alcoholism can also impact the progression of HIV in the body by speeding up the progression of HIV. People living with HIV also face other problems, including potentially compromising their neuropsychological performance.
While it’s known that mixing alcohol with antiretrovirals isn’t toxic, one study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine also showed that nearly half of all HIV-positive people have reported skipping or stopping their meds while drinking, which ultimately had an effect on their T cell count and viral suppression.
Drugs are available for various types of addictive behaviors. For example, there is Chantix (varenicline) for smokers who haven’t had success quitting smoking. Chantix has been cleared for people living with HIV, and it works, according to research. Like Chantix, naltrexone is effective for people living with HIV.
There is hope at making positive changes in your life by removing certain habits.
"We hope that these results will stimulate further research focused on enhancing the coupling of alcohol interventions with antiretroviral medication adherence interventions to improve both alcohol use and HIV-related outcomes," said Lynn Fiellin, M.D., senior author of the study.