List of Medications Used to Treat Alcoholism - Suboxone Palm Beach

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a form of addiction treatment that includes a combination of FDA-approved medication, counseling, and behavioral therapies. MAT was created to combat the difficulties associated with the early stages of recovery.

Individuals recovering from alcohol use disorder often deal with painful symptoms of withdrawal and intense cravings. The medications used in MAT are designed to soothe symptoms of withdrawal and alcohol cravings. This helps patients overcome the detox stage of treatment, allowing them to focus on emotional, behavioral, and spiritual aspects of recovery.

There are many different medications that are approved by the FDA for the treatment of alcoholism. Understanding how each of these medications works and what their benefits are can help individuals decide which treatment approach is right for them.

Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is extremely beneficial in the treatment of alcohol use disorder (AUD). MAT has been proven to teach patients to modify negative patterns of behavior and encourage positive lifestyle changes. It is important to remember that MAT is only successful when counseling and behavioral therapy are prioritized by the patient.

The benefits of using medications for the treatment of alcohol use disorder include:[1]

  • Reducing or eliminating cravings for alcohol
  • Decreasing alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Reducing the risk of relapse
  • Eliminating the need for hospitalization during detox

Some people debate whether medication-assisted treatment is “substituting one drug for another.” However, medical professionals closely monitor patients to ensure safety and progress. Additionally, a majority of patients only take MAT medications for a short period, preventing any risk from arising. MAT is intended to reduce the risks of dangerous withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse from occurring in the early stages of recovery.

What Medications Are Used to Treat Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a chronic and progressive disease that requires ongoing treatment. Oftentimes, the treatment of alcoholism requires several steps, including medical detox, medication management, inpatient or outpatient treatment, and ongoing counseling. It is important to speak to a treatment professional, as each person will benefit from a different treatment combination.

The medications used in medication-assisted treatment work by altering how the body reacts to alcohol, or, by managing the long-term effects of alcohol. The FDA has approved three different medications for the treatment of alcoholism, as well as the use of long-acting benzodiazepines to ease withdrawal symptoms during detox.

Here is a list of the different prescription medications that are used to treat alcoholism and alcohol use disorder:

Naltrexone (ReVia and Vivitrol)

Naltrexone is a medication used to block the intoxicating effects of alcohol.[2] Naltrexone comes in two forms: ReVia and Vivitrol. ReVia is an oral tablet that is prescribed to reduce a patient’s urge to drink and prevent alcohol consumption. ReVia is beneficial in the treatment of alcoholism because it blocks the satisfying feeling of drinking that alcoholics crave. As a result, they are less likely to relapse during treatment.

The second form of naltrexone is sold under the brand name, Vivitrol, a once-a-month injection. Vivitrol provides the same benefits and uses as ReVia. However, some people find Vivitrol more appealing, as they do not have to remember to take a daily pill.

Acamprosate (Campral)

Acamprosate, a medication that is sold under the brand name, Campral, is one of the most commonly used medications in the treatment of alcoholism. Unlike other alcohol treatment medications, Campral does not aim to reduce the pleasurable effects of alcohol.

Campral reduces the brain’s dependence on alcohol by reacting with neurotransmitters in the brain. Acamprosate normalizes brain activity that was impacted by the cessation of alcohol use. Additional benefits of Campral include decreased symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness.

Disulfiram (Antabuse)

Disulfiram is a medication used to discourage drinking. Otherwise known as Antabuse, this drug causes unpleasant side effects when an individual tries to drink alcohol. When alcohol is consumed, it is converted into acetaldehyde and then into acetic acid. Disulfiram prevents acetaldehyde from turning into acetic acid. As a result, the body will experience a surge of acetaldehyde, which makes people feel sick.

It is important to note that Antabuse does not soothe withdrawal symptoms or reduce cravings for alcohol. This medication is purely designed as a deterrent to drinking and should not be taken for at least 12 hours after consuming alcohol.

Long-Acting Benzodiazepines

During detox, some patients are given benzodiazepines, which are anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanax, Ativan, Valium, Librium, and Serax. Benzodiazepines help treat any agitation patients feel during withdrawal, as well as prevent their symptoms from becoming severe.[3] For example, benzodiazepines help prevent serious side effects of alcohol withdrawal such as seizures and delirium tremens (DTs).

Valium and Librium are long-acting benzodiazepines, which are preferred during alcohol detox because they provide a smoother clinical course. This is because long-acting medications have a lesser risk of dependency than short-acting drugs and they help alleviate withdrawal symptoms more effectively. However, if an individual suffers from liver damage, short-acting benzodiazepines are preferred because they don’t metabolize the substances as quickly as a healthy person.

Find a Medically-Assisted Alcohol Treatment Program Near You

MAT is one of the most effective forms of treatment for alcohol addiction. MAT treatment programs like Suboxone Palm Beach offer customizable treatment programs for individuals struggling with alcohol or opioid use disorder. If you or a loved one struggles with alcoholism and would like to begin a new way of life, contact us to learn more about medication-assisted treatment or to find a treatment program near you.

References:

  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2565602/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4606320/

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