Addiction Recovery Blog

What Are the Medication Options for Treating Alcohol Dependence?

[fa icon="calendar"] Jan 14, 2016 / by Russ Kallina

Russ Kallina

It can be difficult for someone to kick their drinking habits, no matter how destructive they may have become.  Therapy, inpatient and outpatient alcohol rehab are most often thought of as a tried-and-true approach in dealing with alcoholism.  And while many find this course of to be perfectly acceptable and successful, there are some other tools in the alcohol addiction treatment toolbox.

There are three FDA approved medications that can be used alongside therapy and 12-step programs. These treatments can help certain people reduce their impulse to drink in different ways.  Some in the medical community would like to see these medications used with a wider degree of regularity and not just extreme cases.  They emphatically note that medication options for treating alcohol dependence alone fall short and are best employed under controlled environments alongside other treatment modalities.

The first approved medication for alcohol dependency is, Antabuse, also known as disulfiram, and has been used for more than 50 years, making it by far the oldest drug on the list.  Antabuse works by blocking the enzyme instrumental in the absorption of acetaldehyde, an alcohol breakdown product.  In addition, the side effects of Antabuse can be quite unpleasant even with small amounts of alcohol in the body.  These range from increased sweating, nausea, neck pain confusion, and chest pain to eye pain, liver problems, impotence, and a metallic taste in the mouth.

The second, Naltrexone, reduces the loss of inhibition and the cravings that some alcoholics experience.  It blocks the receptors in the brain for endorphins, which are the hormones that elevate mood.  Naltrexone also effects these receptors for users of heroin or morphine, and is considered to be an excellent way to break the good-feeling loop experienced by many affected by addiction to a wide range of substances.

The final medication for alcohol addiction treatment, Campral, reduces the withdrawal symptoms heavy alcoholics experience like insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness that can lead to relapse.  Campral works by interfering with the chemical messenger systems in the brain. It has been shown that with the addition of this alcohol dependency medication, a person can go for longer periods without craving a drink.

As always, there is no magic pill or one-size-fits-all strategy to "cure" alcohol addiction. Different individuals have different needs and issues, and an alcohol addiction treatment program should be conducted under the supervision of a doctor, or clinic that specializes in addiction. If you or your loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, contact us today for a free, no-obligations consultation to find the best path to recovery. 

Topics: Addiction, Alcohol

Russ Kallina

Written by Russ Kallina

Russ Kallina is Aquila Recovery of Virginia's Program Director of Operations.

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