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Both inpatient and outpatient programs for alcohol use disorder treatment may prescribe medications to minimize negative side effects during the course of treatment.
Clients may be prescribed different types of medications to manage withdrawal symptoms and to treat ongoing alcohol dependence. While some of the medications specifically treat alcohol use disorders, others help to manage adverse symptoms that are possible over the course of treatment.
Read on to learn about:
There are a variety of pharmaceutical medications used to treat alcohol use disorder that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Alcohol cessation drugs that are approved by the FDA have been proven to be safe and effective for use when used as prescribed.1
When deciding whether a drug should be approved, the FDA considers if the potential benefits of the drug outweigh the potential risks and side effects. It should be known that while the FDA reviews the results of testing, it does not create or administer the testing.1
If you’re wondering what drug you can take to stop drinking, a handful that are used specifically to treat alcoholism include:
Withdrawing from alcohol is a different process from treating alcohol use disorder. When a person who is addicted to alcohol stops drinking, they may experience symptoms of withdrawal.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can range from tremors and anxiety to insomnia and nausea and vomiting.5
Drugs that can treat these symptoms include:
The medications used for alcohol treatment fall into three categories: managing withdrawal symptoms, reducing alcohol consumption, or altering brain chemistry. These pharmaceutical medications work together to minimize possible negative side effects and increase success rates.
Alcohol craving medications, such as Antabuse, reduce alcohol consumption by introducing negative side effects, such as vomiting, in the presence of alcohol.
Naltrexone and Campral work by changing brain chemistry and how alcohol affects the body.
Other alcohol dependence medications, such as anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants, work to address specific symptoms that may occur in the recovery process.
Many of the medications used during alcohol addiction treatment are intended for short-term use. Others may be used on a longer-term basis.
For instance, Antabuse can be prescribed over the long-term. However, it’s typically prescribed in a larger dose during the first 2 weeks of treatment before a shorter dose is prescribed. The supervising physician will determine the specific prescription length and dosages.
Often, dosages are adjusted throughout the treatment process.
Some of the prescribed alcohol abuse medications are considered more effective than others.
For instance, Antabuse does not treat underlying issues with alcoholism, including brain chemistry. The prescription medication simply makes it more uncomfortable for the individual to drink alcohol.
As with all medications, Antabuse is not an effective addiction treatment on its own; it must be used in conjunction with research-based therapies.
Other pharmaceutical medications are only moderately effective. Acamprosate and naltrexone can modestly reduce alcohol consumption and increase alcohol abstinence rates. They work best when combined with other types of treatment, including behavioral modification and supportive therapy.8
The effectiveness of the pharmaceutical medication also largely depends on the individual, their unique medical history, their history with substance abuse and addiction recovery, and any co-occurring mental health issues.
If the client has any co-occurring medical or mental health issues that require medication, any possible interactions must be considered before prescribing medication for alcohol withdrawal or addiction recovery.
All pharmaceutical medications come with some level of risks and potential side effects. The medications commonly used for alcohol treatment, however, appear to have fewer adverse side effects than those associated with alcoholism.
High-dose naltrexone seems to be well tolerated, safe, and effective in both men and women with alcohol dependence. The relatively low risks for these medications may make them ideal choices for alcohol treatment.9
Adverse side effects for this class of alcohol dependence medications include:
Researchers are examining other types of pharmaceutical medications that can be used to treat alcoholism. Potential areas for research include other ways to reduce alcohol consumption. These range from controlling appetite to changing bodily reactions.10
The idea of most of this research is to make drinking less pleasant. These studies will likely increase the number of pharmaceutical medications used to manage alcohol addiction recovery.
If you’re asking yourself “how can I stop drinking so much?” know that there are several evidence-based therapies that you can participate in for alcohol addiction. These therapy options can be used in conjunction with medications for alcohol cessation.
What therapy you do depends on several things, including the type of substance use disorder you have and how severe the addiction is. Below is a collection of a handful of treatment types you can find at many facilities like River Oaks.