AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) – A Colorado doctor is reporting an increase in the number of patients whose drinking increased during the pandemic, and now many of those patients are wanting to cut down or quit.

“Alcohol use disorder is a major public health problem. I think that it’s gotten worse during the pandemic,” said Dr. Joseph Schacht, a clinical psychologist, and neuroscientist at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

He is very concerned by a recent study showing a 25% increase in alcohol-related deaths in 2020.

“That has prompted a lot of concern among people like me who study alcohol and who work on treatment for alcohol,” Dr. Schacht said.

He is now running a National Institutes of Health clinical trial testing a new medication to see if it can curb people’s cravings for alcohol and reduce their drinking habits.

The medication is taken daily, for a period of time, and the cravings are tested.

“The way that we test that in the lab is that we ask people what their favorite thing to drink is and we get that and we bring it into the lab, and then pour it in front of them, have them bring it up to their nose and smell it, and look at it, and then we ask them, ‘How much are you craving alcohol right now?'” Dr. Schacht said.

Anyone interested in participating in the trial can email alcoholstudy@ucdenver.edu, call (720) 372-3766, or click on this link to submit contact information.

Right now, there are only three medications approved to treat alcohol use disorder, and Schacht wants to increase the options.

“None of the currently approved drugs is terrifically effective and so it’s so important that we can find something else that is more effective and again that can help people when they are doing other things like psychotherapy or going to AA meetings,” he said.