Researchers studied the effectiveness of a number of different treatments in 1,400 alcohol-dependent people over four months. The treatment included two drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration -- naltrexone and acamprosate.
Researchers looked at different combinations of medication and specialized behavioral counseling.
"We were surprised by two findings from our study. One was that acamprosate alone was no more effective than a placebo alone," said Dr. Raymond Anton of the Medical University of South Carolina.
The second finding showed naltrexone was effective by itself, but there was no added benefit when combined with specialized counseling and regular medical visits.
Special counseling with regular medical visits was also effective, which is good news for people who prefer outpatient treatment.
"This study and others have shown that people should be optimistic about treatments for their alcohol problems -- that treatment does help," Anton said.
The study was funded by the National Institutes for Health and the National Institutes for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The results are in the Journal of the American Medical Association.