Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Medications
Alcohol addiction is often treated with a combination of behavioral therapies and medications. Keep reading for more information on alcohol treatment medication and how it may be used in comprehensive treatment plans to help people start and stay on the path to recovery. You can also learn more about finding an outpatient or inpatient rehab for alcohol near you.
Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Medications
Treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD) is not one-size-fits-all. The most effective treatment plans are customized to meet each patient’s individual needs and include different components, such as:1
- Behavioral therapy to help people change negative alcohol-related behaviors.
- Mutual-support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
- Medications that help people reduce or stop drinking and prevent relapse.
There are three FDA-approved medications for the treatment of AUD:1–3
- Disulfiram (Antabuse).
- Naltrexone (Vivitrol).
- Acamprosate (Campral).
Other off-label medications may also be used at the discretion of a person’s treating physician.4
Disulfiram, available under the brand name Antabuse, is an alcohol addiction medication that causes sensitivity to alcohol, resulting in a very unpleasant reaction when the person taking it drinks alcohol, even if it’s a small amount.5
It is prescribed to help people avoid alcohol and remain sober while receiving behavioral and other supportive therapies.5
A range of uncomfortable, potentially severe symptoms can arise if a person takes disulfiram and then subsequently drinks alcohol. These symptoms can last as long as it takes for the alcohol to be completely metabolized and may include:5
- Heart palpitations.
- Feelings of uneasiness.
Naltrexone for AUD is available in long-acting monthly injectable form, known by the brand name Vivitrol, and short-acting oral form as a daily pill, known by the brand name Revia. The long-acting form (Vivitrol) is intended for use in people who are not currently drinking alcohol.3,6,7
Starting with oral naltrexone can ensure a person won’t have an allergic reaction or unbearable side effects before switching to the long-acting injectable. Opioid use should also be avoided when using naltrexone, as this medication can cause severe and persistent opioid withdrawal symptoms.3
For people who are recovering from AUD, naltrexone can help by reducing heavy drinking, the number of days that a person drinks alcohol, the number of drinks a person has if they do drink, alcohol cravings, and relapse rates.2,3,8
Acamprosate, also available under the brand name Campral, is a medication used to stop drinking alcohol. It is believed to help restore balance to certain brain chemicals that can become imbalanced with chronic alcohol use.2,9
Acamprosate is generally started as soon as possible after withdrawal, once a person has achieved abstinence, and can be continued if a person relapses.9
Acamprosate may help people maintain abstinence by reducing cravings and other negative symptoms that can occur with ongoing abstinence.4,8
Off-Label Alcohol Treatment Medications
Physicians sometimes prescribe certain medications off-label for the treatment of AUD. Some of the more well-researched medications include:4
Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant medication that may be prescribed off-label for the treatment of AUD. It can be started as a withdrawal treatment medication and then continued to help reduce cravings.4,10
While research has had somewhat mixed results, data from three randomized controlled trials showed that, when compared to placebo groups, people who received gabapentin reported more days of abstinence and reductions in heavy drinking.4
Research indicates topiramate, another anticonvulsant medication, may help reduce alcohol consumption and heavy drinking days in people with AUD. Despite this, about 20% of clinical study participants who received topiramate dropped out due to the drug’s unpleasant side effects.4
Baclofen is a skeletal muscle relaxant that may have benefits for the treatment of AUD. Studies have had conflicting results, but case reports indicate that baclofen may help reduce alcohol use, maintain abstinence, and alleviate cravings and anxiety associated with AUD.4
Ondansetron is a medication that may be used to prevent nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy and opioid treatment, and some studies have demonstrated its potential use for lowering alcohol intake and supporting abstinence in people with AUD.4
Varenicline is sometimes used to help people stop smoking, and it may also be useful in reducing alcohol cravings and consumption. Research has had conflicting results, but some studies show that people who received treatment with varenicline had reduced alcohol cravings, as well as fewer drinking days and drinks per day, when compared with the placebo groups.4
How Is Alcohol Addiction Treated?
Alcohol treatment meds are only one part of the picture when it comes to rehab alcohol treatment. People who are recovering from AUD are encouraged to participate in a comprehensive addiction treatment program that also includes behavioral therapies and support groups.1
Additionally, some rehabs, like our Tampa metro area inpatient drug & alcohol rehab, may offer complementary treatments, such as music and art therapy, stress management, and mindfulness and meditation.
It’s important to note that treatment can vary from person to person based on their individual needs.
Treatment for Alcohol Addiction in Florida
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, reach out to our Tampa alcohol rehab to learn more about alcohol use disorder treatment medications and your rehab options.
At River Oaks, we offer all rehab levels of care, including detox, inpatient, and outpatient treatment. We know that everyone is unique and will work with you or your family member to create a personalized treatment plan that meets your needs.
You can also learn more about the treatment admissions process, insurance plans that cover treatment, and other rehab payment options. Call us at to speak with a caring admissions navigator and start the path to recovery today.
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