Medications For Treating Alcohol Dependence

Combined with treatment led by health professionals, mutual-support groups can offer a valuable added layer of support. Disulfiram does not increase abstinence rates or decrease relapse rates or cravings compared with placebo, and it is not recommended for routine use in primary care. Naltrexone and acamprosate are recommended as FDA-approved options for treatment of alcohol dependence in conjunction with behavior therapy. Alcohol ingestion stimulates endogenous opioid release and increases dopamine transmission. Naltrexone blocks these effects, reducing euphoria and cravings.20 Naltrexone is available in oral and injectable long-acting formulations. There is inconsistent evidence supporting the use of disulfiram to decrease alcohol intake in patients with alcohol use disorder.Medication, however, can play a valuable role in aiding your efforts to assume more control over your health and lifestyle. Here we look at five medications for alcoholism, examining how and why they work and the unique benefits of each one. It is important to gauge whether the facility provides all the currently available methods or relies on one approach. You may want to learn if the program or provider offers medication and if mental health issues are addressed together with addiction treatment. Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs provide peer support for people quitting or cutting back on their drinking.Combining acamprosate and alcohol does not produce an aversion reaction. Physicians track the patient’s heart rate, temperature, breathing rate, and fluid levels. Physicians help relieve any discomfort the patient may be feeling. They also adjust any medication doses according to the patient’s needs and make long-term plans for medication.

medications for treating alcohol dependence

“The person who has the addiction to alcohol might not want to admit that they have it because it’s so stigmatizing. And then healthcare providers interact with patients in a way that’s different than other diseases.” A new study examining data from a 2019 national survey on drug and alcohol use found that 6% of U.S. adults had AUD. Of those, fewer than 10% reported receiving any treatment for their condition and only about 1.6% said they used AUD medications.It’s recommended that clinicians, whether they are primary care doctors or gynecologists, screen patients for their alcohol use during their visits. Asking about how often they drink, for example, is a simple question that is so often neglected. Screening and assessment tools are accessible and open to both patients and health care providers online.

Treatment For Alcohol Problems: Finding And Getting Help

The side effects of detoxification, such as seizures, can be dangerous and life-threatening. When alcohol detox is treated in a licensed inpatient treatment center, medications are often prescribed to reduce uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.Each drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism or alcohol use disorder, when used in combination with behavioral therapy and other support services. These three alcohol medications come in pill form, and naltrexone also comes in injectable form. Treatments are varied because there are multiple perspectives of alcoholism. Those who approach alcoholism as a medical condition or disease recommend differing treatments from, for instance, those who approach the condition as one of social choice. Most treatments focus on helping people discontinue their alcohol intake, followed up with life training and/or social support to help them resist a return to alcohol use. Since alcoholism involves multiple factors which encourage a person to continue drinking, they must all be addressed to successfully prevent a relapse. An example of this kind of treatment is detoxification followed by a combination of supportive therapy, attendance at self-help groups, and ongoing development of coping mechanisms.

medications for treating alcohol dependence

Nonetheless, they are safe to take and may help to alleviate some symptoms of withdrawal and cravings. Several medications are approved by the FDA to alleviate alcohol cravings, but are prescription only. A 2018 review of all available research evidence showed that Baclofen makes little or no difference in the risk of relapse or how often people drink, and may even increase alcohol use. It acts on the same neurotransmitter systems that alcohol targets in the brain , apparently acting as an agonist and antagonist and modulator of the receptors.It’s a toxic chemical responsible for common hangover symptoms. This build-up leads to sudden and severe effects such as nausea, excessive vomiting, hyperventilation, headaches, chest pain, sweating and vertigo. Naltrexone was originally designed to treat opioid addiction.


Review articles characterize topiramate as showing “encouraging”, “promising”, “efficacious”, and “insufficient” evidence in the treatment of alcohol use disorders. Attitudes and social stereotypes can create barriers to the detection and treatment of alcohol use disorder. Fear of stigmatization may lead women to deny that they are suffering from a medical condition, to hide their drinking, and to drink alone.

medications for treating alcohol dependence

It is believed that naltrexone works through its blockage of μopioid receptors, which reduces the reinforcing effects of alcohol leading to decreased feelings of intoxication and fewer cravings. According to research, medications seem to be a positive part of the most effective combination for treatment for alcohol use disorders. Comprehensive research has compared acamprosate to naltrexone and found that there is no significant difference between the two in terms of effectiveness. Overall, the medications differ in abstinent status, dosing schedule, and how well individuals tolerate the side effects of one medication compared to the other. The side effects of acamprosate are generally well-tolerated. Therefore, patients experience few side effects while on the drug. The biggest threat to the individual is the possibility of diarrhea, the drug’s most common side effect.Learn how meditation, yoga, and other therapies can support your primary treatment. Part of recovering from alcohol use disorder is changing old behaviors and routines. Some people may not provide the support you need to reach your goals.

Medications For Alcohol Use Disorder

L-glutamine is an amino acid that the body naturally creates. Significant amounts of alcohol can affect how l-glutamine is synthesized and absorbed in the body. Disulfiram and Campral are best used to treat people in recovery. For beer (5-percent alcohol), one drink is a 12-ounce bottle. You keep drinking even though it has caused problems in your relationships with others. Can you have a holly jolly holiday when you’re recovering from an addiction?

medications for treating alcohol dependence

It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider. Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand with heavy drinking. Studies show that people who are alcohol dependent are two to three times as likely to suffer from major depression or anxiety over their lifetime. When addressing drinking problems, it’s important to also seek treatment for any accompanying medical and mental health issues. Disulfiram is a tricky medication for alcoholism because research suggests that disulfiram can only work if the individual is motivated to stay abstinent and their treatment is supervised.


The medicines are usually taken once people have stopped drinking to help keep them from starting to drink again. “Medications are very important during alcohol withdrawal, the period called cold turkey. Long-term abuse of alcohol has a sedative effect on the body. Going cold turkey without the right medication can lead to life-threatening withdrawal reactions. Here’s what you need to know for safe and successful alcohol addiction treatment. With regard to alcoholism, BAC is useful to judge alcohol tolerance, which in turn is a sign of alcoholism. Electrolyte and acid-base abnormalities including hypokalemia, hypomagnesemia, hyponatremia, hyperuricemia, metabolic acidosis, and respiratory alkalosis are common in people with alcohol use disorders.

  • “The diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder are very defined,” Einstein says.
  • If you drink alcohol, the drug produces a physical reaction that may include flushing, nausea, vomiting and headaches.
  • AUD is a chronic relapsing addiction previously called alcoholism.
  • When you are attempting to remain sober through your recovery, medication can give you a sense of reassurance that you are doing your best to battle the addiction.
  • Human clinical trials followed in the late 80s and early 90s.
  • Take the course at your own pace and control your own progress.

Studies have shown that just getting help is one of the most important factors in treating alcohol addiction; the precise type of treatment received is not as important. Naltrexone, which can help reduce the urge to drink and help to curb problem drinking. It blocks the metabolism of alcohol in a person’s body so that they experience unpleasant symptoms, like nausea, if they decide to drink. Rehab includes other treatments, such as behavioral therapy, to make recovery more successful. If you or a loved one wants to explore rehab options, contact a treatment provider now. Many effective addiction treatment plans require the use of other drugs to ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce the likelihood of relapse. That means that it lasts for a long time or it causes problems again and again.

To Bring Modern Effective Treatments Into The Home

In contrast, naltrexone, an anticraving agent, reduces relapse rates and cravings and increases abstinence rates. Acamprosate also reduces relapse rates and increases abstinence rates. Serotonergic and anticonvulsant agents promise to play more of a role in the treatment of alcohol dependence. This major double-blind study of 100 people entering outpatient treatment after being diagnosed with alcohol use disorder was just reported in November 2020. Yale researchers gave the drug to all patients who had experienced withdrawal symptoms before entering treatment. According to the Yale alcohol and stress experts, research subjects with more shakes heightened cravings and anxiety, and difficulty sleeping who receive Prazosin significantly had less heavy drinking episodes. The drug had little effect on those with few or no withdrawal symptoms.Naltrexone can be a helpful part of a comprehensive recovery plan. Withdrawal symptoms typically reduce within one to two weeks after starting the detox. However, this could take longer depending on the severity of a patient’s alcohol dependence. Some of these side effects may go away during treatment as your body becomes used to the medication.28 An open-label study compared topiramate plus psychotherapy with psychotherapy alone in hospitalized patients after alcohol withdrawal treatment. Campral is the most recent medication approved for the treatment of alcohol dependence or alcoholism in the U.S. Doctors in Europe prescribe baclofen as the primary treatment for alcohol misuse. In France alone there are over 10,000 prescribing physicians and more than 300,000 people taking baclofen (from a population of the U.S.) for help with alcohol cravings. It is in the process of being approved as the first-line alcohol treatment in Australia after a petition by the Royal Perth Hospital.