How to talk with your GP about baclofen treatment for alcohol problems.

Baclofen is ideally suited to treatment of alcohol problems in General Practice. Baclofen treatment doesn’t need specialised Drug and Alcohol Services like detox and rehabilitation facilities because it doesn’t require the patient to come off alcohol to start the treatment. The baclofen is started while the patient is still drinking at usual amounts. As the baclofen dose goes up, the consumption of alcohol drops in a controlled fashion, as the desire to drink fades away.

So for most patients, baclofen treatment can be done with GP visits and while the patients continue their daily life.

GP are experienced at holistic care; dealing with medical and psychological problems and their impacts on life, work and family. So they are well placed to treat your alcohol problem as well as help you manage the issues and life changes that arise during treatment. There are real advantages to being treated by a familiar doctor who already knows you and maybe your family too.

If you don’t have a regular GP then take the time to find one. It’s often most fruitful to ask friends or family for a recommendation rather than just choosing at random. It’s not necessary to go into detail when asking if people know a good GP. A simple explanation like “I think it’s time I paid more attention to my health and had a check up” is enough.

Even your regular GP may not know about your alcohol problem. It might not have been raised during consultations or, it has been raised, but you didn’t say how much of a problem it really is.  This is very common because of the shame most people feel about alcohol problems.

If you would like to try baclofen treatment, it’s time for an honest chat with your GP. You may find that your GP already suspected or knew there was a problem.

Because the treatments previously available for alcohol problems weren’t very effective and sometimes unpleasant, the GP may have been waiting for you to show strong motivation by asking for treatment for the alcohol problem or maybe felt they didn’t have any useful treatment to offer.

Most GPs don’t know about baclofen treatment for alcohol problems because it’s not yet widely used in Australia. They will generally know that baclofen is used for spasticity in patients with spinal cord injuries but not much else. That’s because baclofen has always been a specialist medication, prescribed and adjusted by neurologists.

This website is part of changing this, letting both doctors and patients know about baclofen treatment for alcoholism. It’s only the start. The idea is to spread this information via GP teaching, stories in the popular media and social media as people spread the word through blogs and forums.

Some GPs will be keen to start using baclofen treatment for alcohol problems but others will be reluctant.  These doctors may feel that baclofen treatment is:

  • outside of their area of expertise or interest.
  • unproven – there’s not enough scientific data to support this use.
  • another treatment fad which will not last.

They might be surprised to learn how many patients are already being treated in Europe (~350,000) with at least 100,000 in France alone.

We’re hoping to identify GPs who want to develop expertise in baclofen treatment for alcohol problems and allow their names to be put on this website.

This website also has a patient blog so there may be information there from patients who have found good baclofen treating GPs.

It is going to take time to develop a group of baclofen prescribing GPs in Perth. This will be difficult for people who are keen to try baclofen treatment soon.

Some GPs will not be comfortable prescribing baclofen at all and won’t agree to your request. Their views may change when the results of four large European trials of baclofen treatment for alcoholism are released in September 2016 at the World Congress for Alcohol and Alcoholism.

Here are my practical tips for talking with your GP:

1. Become well informed about baclofen treatment for alcohol problems.

  • Read this website and search the internet for information to decide if baclofen seems right for you and you are ready to try it.

2. Go and talk with your GP.

  • Make a long appointment so there is time for discussion.
  • If you feel uneasy about raising the subject, simply saying “I think I might be drinking a bit much” or “I’ve heard about this new treatment for alcohol” will do.
  • Or bring this sheet along as a conversation starter.
  • Talk honestly with your GP about your drinking problem and wish for treatment.
  • Bring along a printout of Clinical Trials of baclofen in alcoholism – just how effective is it? (link). It contains the research data supporting baclofen’s effectiveness for alcohol problems.

3.  Don’t expect to walk out of the first consultation with baclofen treatment.

  • Your GP may not know about baclofen treatment for alcoholism and want to review the evidence him/herself before considering prescribing.
  • Your GP may want further consultations to properly evaluate the issues raised before considering a prescription.