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Brief Overview of the Medication Used to Treat Alcohol Addiction

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Alcohol addiction treatment is difficult. That is why, many doctors and traditional treatment centers resort to medication. Its purpose is to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and reduce distractions, so as to allow the addict to focus on their recovery and not relapse. In the following lines, we will review the most commonly used drugs.

Commonly Used Medication in Treating Alcohol Addiction

1. Disulfram

Also known by its trade name, Antabuse, this drug has been in use for over five decades. It is touted to help those who cannot control their obsession to drink and reduce cravings. Some courts include its prescription in probation sentences to make sure the sentencess remains sober.

The drug halts the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol. Those who drink while taking it may experience skin flushing, heart palpitations and nausea. Symptoms worsen as the amount of alcohol increases.

The goal of disulfram treatment is to deter the patient from drinking. It should never be used by people intoxicated with alcohol. Administration can begin within 12 hours from the last drink and only with the patient’s knowledge. The effects can last for up to two weeks from the last dosage.

2. Naltrexone

Commonly used as an opiate antagonist, it is often prescribed to alcohol addicts as well. Alcohol and opioids affect the same brain centers and act in similar ways. Thus, naltrexone may help decrease alcohol cravings and block brain receptors, thus reducing the pleasure drinkers experience.

With cravings and pleasure out of the equation, recovery could indeed be easier. However, the drug comes with its own share of side effects that should not be ignored. Moreover, taken over long periods and/or in high doses, it, too, can cause addiction.

3. Acamprosate

This drug, also known as Campral, is commonly prescribed to those for whom alcohol is the only or primary drug of choice. Similarly to naltrexone, it helps curb the user’s desire to drink. Combined with alcohol, it does not induce unpleasant effects.

It may help alcoholics who continue to experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms over a long time. Common examples of negative symptoms it may help with are anxiety, insomnia, and mood shifts. It is not a quick-fix solution but rather as a recovery support solution.

It is important to note that the effectiveness of acamprosate has yet to be proven in the U.S. Most of the clinical trials available were performed in Europe, with significant differences between the sample groups in the studies. Moreover, it too may induce unpleasant side effects.

4. Benzodiazepines

This drug category includes anti-anxiety medication like Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin. They are frequently used for treating psychiatric disorders but also alcohol addiction, during the detoxification stage. Librium and Valium are the most commonly prescribed. Occasionally, doctors may also recommend oxazepam or lorazepam.

Benzodiazepines help prevent and alleviate some severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, like seizures. They are usually prescribed for short periods of time, to make withdrawal symptoms easier to bear and prevent relapses.

However, benzodiazepines are not free of side effects. They, too, may induce addiction and withdrawal symptoms. As a result, they should not be taken without doctor recommendation, and should always follow a careful weighing of the risks and benefits.

The Bottom Line about Using Medication to Treat Alcohol Addiction

Treating alcohol addiction with medication is a controversial decision. There are both risks and benefits to it. On one hand, drugs may help curb cravings and even motivate the user to remain sober. On the other hand, they too have side effects and bring about risks of abuse and addiction.

As a result, it is important that the decision regarding their administration be made by a medical professional. Also, since alcohol addiction has physical, mental, and emotional implications, all at the same time, treatment should take place in specialized recovery centers. There, both the patient and their loved ones can receive the support and guidance they need and, thus, secure recovery.

Find Out More about Alcohol Addiction Treatment at the Asheville Recovery Center

Sometimes, medication can help recovery. Other times, its role can be fulfilled by other therapies and treatment strategies. We can help you find the best alcohol addiction treatment for you or your loved one.

At Asheville Recovery Center, we treat alcohol addiction with multidisciplinary teams. We use the newest and most effective treatment strategies and methods, and we always focus on our patients’ needs and well-being. You too can enroll in one of our alcohol recovery programs and find your way to sobriety. Get in touch to find out more!