According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly 15 million people aged 12 or older suffered from an alcohol use disorder.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is the medical term for alcoholism, a chronic and progressive disease that causes you to become unable to control your drinking. Long-term alcoholism can lead to an array of consequences, from social isolation and financial devastation to serious mental and physical health conditions. People who struggle with alcoholism can benefit from comprehensive medical and psychiatric treatment.
Alcoholism treatment involves a combination of evidence-based therapies that focus on positive behavioral changes, treatment for past trauma, and medications. Medications are useful during detox and in recovery, especially for people who have struggled with a therapy-only approach in the past.
The medications used to treat alcoholism provide relief in a few different ways, depending on the type of medication. For example, some medications soothe symptoms of withdrawal, while others prevent relapse from occurring after someone is already medically detoxed.
Medications Used to Treat Alcoholism
While medications are used to treat alcohol use disorder, it is important to remember that they are only a small part of the recovery process. In other words, medications alone will not prevent you from relapsing. The use of medications must be combined with behavioral alcohol addiction therapies, group counseling, and support groups.
While benzodiazepines are known as a drug of abuse, they are commonly used during the detoxification process for alcohol. Within the safety of an alcohol detox center, doctors may prescribe long-acting benzodiazepines like Librium or Valium to prevent severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. These medications help calm the central nervous system, preventing seizures, delirium, and more.
Benzodiazepine medications are the gold standard for alcoholism detox treatment and they pose a low risk of dependency when used short-term as a treatment for withdrawal.
Acamprosate is a medication that is used after you complete alcohol detox. While other medications reduce the pleasurable effects of alcohol, Campral reduces your brain’s dependence on the substance. This medication works by affecting certain neurotransmitters in the brain to help modulate and normalize brain activity that was disrupted by alcohol addiction, reducing cravings and your overall dependence on alcohol.
The benefits of acamprosate include:
- Reduce side effects for patients with liver damage because the medication is absorbed through the digestive tract rather than the liver
- Fewer and less severe side effects than other medications for alcohol use disorder
- No known drug interactions with other medications
- Actively reduces cravings and alcohol dependency by reacting to neurotransmitters in the brain rather than creating an aversion to the effects of alcohol
Disulfiram is a medication that changes the way your body reacts to alcohol consumption. If you are on this medication and attempt to drink alcohol, you will experience a negative reaction instead of the pleasurable and addictive effects your body craves. The goal is to create a diversion to alcohol.
If you drink alcohol while taking Antabuse, you may experience:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
Disulfiram causes these effects by blocking the metabolism of alcohol, causing a buildup of acetaldehyde in your system. This is what causes you to feel sick and is often referred to as the “Antabuse reaction.”
Naltrexone (Revia or Vivitrol)
Naltrexone is a medication that is used to treat both opioid and alcohol use disorders in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). When treating alcoholism, naltrexone works to reduce cravings for alcohol and block the pleasurable effects of the substance, preventing you from relapsing. This medication is only used after you are medically detoxed from alcohol to ensure that you will not experience any negative reactions.
Naltrexone reduces cravings and blocks the effects of alcohol by binding to endorphin receptors in the body. This medication comes in two different forms, either as a pill (Revia) or an injection (Vivitrol).
Topiramate is an anticonvulsant medication that is primarily used to treat epilepsy and migraines. However, this medication has been found effective in treating alcohol use disorder (AUD) as well. Topamax targets reward centers in your brain to prevent your brain from associating alcohol consumption with reward.
According to a study from the Journal of Addiction Medicine, “Collective evidence suggests topiramate is an effective treatment option in AUD, with notable efficacy in reducing harmful drinking patterns in AUD.”
Find Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Alcoholism Today
If you or a loved one suffer from alcoholism, deciding to enter an alcoholism treatment program in California can be difficult. Oftentimes, the thought of experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms and dealing with cravings deters people from getting the help they need. Medically-assisted alcohol detox and rehab centers use medications to help their patients overcome severe symptoms of withdrawal and prevent them from experiencing intense cravings.
To learn more about medication-assisted treatment for alcoholism, contact Arise Treatment Center today.