, Volume 235, Issue 9, pp 2771–2773 | Cite as

New steps for treating alcohol use disorder: the emerging importance of physical exercise

  • Mats HallgrenEmail author
  • Davy Vancampfort
  • Andreas Lundin
  • Victoria Andersson
  • Sven Andréasson
Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

We commend Campbell et al. (2018) for their highly informative mini-review titled “New treatments for alcohol use disorder,” recently published in Psychopharmacology (Campbell et al. 2018). Focusing primarily on severe alcohol use disorder (AUD), the authors correctly note that many guidelines have not kept pace with innovations in the treatment of AUD. We also concur that medication plays a key role in the treatment of severe AUD, and that technology-based interventions have potential to increase help-seeking, particularly among those who perceive specialized treatments as stigmatizing. Here, we complement their timely review, which focuses on advances in pharmacotherapy, by outlining the emerging rationale for using exercise as an adjunct treatment for AUD. In this context, “exercise” refers to a sub-set of physical activity which is planned, repetitive, and purposefully engaged in to improve fitness and/or health.

Treatments that are effective in ameliorating somatic...


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Abrantes AM, Battle CL, Strong DR, Ing E, Dubreuil ME, Gordon A, Brown RA (2011) Exercise preferences of patients in substance abuse treatment. Ment Health and Phys Act 4:79–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andreasson S, Danielsson AK, Wallhed-Finn S (2013) Preferences regarding treatment for alcohol problems. Alcohol Alcohol 48:694–699CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Campbell EJ, Lawrence AJ, Perry CJ (2018) New steps for treating alcohol use disorder. Psychopharmacology 235:1759–1773CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dao-Castellana MH, Samson Y, Legault F, Martinot JL, Aubin HJ, Crouzel C, Feldman L, Barrucand D, Rancurel G, Feline A, Syrota A (1998) Frontal dysfunction in neurologically normal chronic alcoholic subjects: metabolic and neuropsychological findings. Psychol Med 28:1039–1048CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Field M, Cox WM (2008) Attentional bias in addictive behaviors: a review of its development, causes, and consequences. Drug Alcohol Depend 97:1–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Firth J, Stubbs B, Vancampfort D, Schuch F, Lagopoulos J, Rosenbaum S, Ward PB (2018) Effect of aerobic exercise on hippocampal volume in humans: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neuroimage 166:230–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Giesen ES, Deimel H, Bloch W (2015) Clinical exercise interventions in alcohol use disorders: a systematic review. J Subst Abus Treat 52:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hallgren M, Vancampfort D, Giesen ES, Lundin A, Stubbs B (2017) Exercise as treatment for alcohol use disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med 51:1058–1064CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hotting K, Roder B (2013) Beneficial effects of physical exercise on neuroplasticity and cognition. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 37:2243–2257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Janse Van Rensburg K, Taylor A, Benattayallah A, Hodgson T (2012) The effects of exercise on cigarette cravings and brain activation in response to smoking-related images. Psychopharmacology 221:659–666CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kerling A, Kuck M, Tegtbur U, Grams L, Weber-Spickschen S, Hanke A, Stubbs B, Kahl KG (2017) Exercise increases serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor in patients with major depressive disorder. J Affect Disord 215:152–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kreitman N (1986) Alcohol-consumption and the preventive paradox. Addiction 81:353–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Mceachin RC, Keller BJ, Saunders EF, Mcinnis MG (2008) Modeling gene-by-environment interaction in comorbid depression with alcohol use disorders via an integrated bioinformatics approach. BioData Min 1:2. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. Morris NL, Ippolito JA, Curtis BJ, Chen MM, Friedman SL, Hines IN, Haddad GE, Chang SL, Brown LA, Waldschmidt TJ, Mandrekar P, Kovacs EJ, Choudhry MA (2015) Alcohol and inflammatory responses: summary of the 2013 alcohol and immunology research interest group (AIRIG) meeting. Alcohol 49:1–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Naci H, Ioannidis JPA (2015) Comparative effectiveness of exercise and drug interventions on mortality outcomes: metaepidemiological study. Br J Sports Med 49:1414–1422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. NIDA (2018) Principles of drug addiction treatment: a research-based guide, 3rd edn. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)Google Scholar
  17. Parsons OA (1994) Neuropsychological measures and event-related potentials in alcoholics - interrelationships, long-term reliabilities, and prediction of resumption of drinking. J Clin Psychol 50:37–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Roerecke M, Rehm J (2014) Cause-specific mortality risk in alcohol use disorder treatment patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Epidemiol 43:906–919CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Roessler KK, Bilberg R, Nielsen AS, Jensen K, Ekstrom CT, Sari S (2017) Exercise as adjunctive treatment for alcohol use disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Plos One 12:e0186076CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Sari S, Muller AE, Roessler KK (2017) Exercising alcohol patients don't lack motivation but struggle with structures, emotions and social context - a qualitative dropout study. BMC Fam Pract 18:45. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  21. Schuch FB, Vancampfort D, Firth J, Rosenbaum S, Ward PB, Silva ES, Hallgren M, Ponce De Leon A, Dunn AL, Deslandes AC, Fleck MP, Carvalho AF, Stubbs B (2018) Physical activity and incident depression: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Am J Psychiatry 175:631–648CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Sinha R (2012) How does stress lead to risk of alcohol relapse? Alcohol Res 34:432–440PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. Vancampfort D, Hallgren M, Mugisha J, De Hert M, Probst M, Monsieur D, Stubbs B (2016) The prevalence of metabolic syndrome in alcohol use disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Alcohol Alcohol 51:515–521CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Karolinska InstitutetDepartment of Public Health SciencesStockholmSweden
  2. 2.Department of Rehabilitation SciencesKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  3. 3.KU LeuvenUniversity Psychiatric Center KU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  4. 4.Center for Psychiatry ResearchStockholmSweden
  5. 5.Riddargatan 1: clinic for Alcohol and HealthStockholmSweden

Personalised recommendations