For a person who is addicted to alcohol, the prospect of quitting may seem impossible. Alcohol addiction encompasses physical and emotional dependence that requires professional intervention and guidance. Individuals who have an alcohol addiction should seek out a reputable substance abuse treatment program to properly advise and provide therapeutic services throughout the recovery process. To help ease an individual transition from alcohol dependency to a path of wellness, some treatment centers offer medication to ease withdrawal symptoms and curb the urge to drink.
Medications For Alcoholism
Although medications to treat alcohol abuse and alcoholism have existed for decades, few people are aware of the drugs’ availability. Because drug manufacturers do not advertise these drugs through mainstream marketing channels, the average consumer never receives information about these medications. Primary care doctors also tend to shy away from telling their customers about these drugs because most do not receive training in medical school to learn how to administer the drugs. Currently, there are three medications that have received FDA approval for use in patients who struggle with alcohol use and would like to drink less or stop drinking altogether. Each medication may be used to serve a different role in a patient’s quest to cut down on or eliminate alcohol consumption from his or her lifestyle.
Officially introduced in 1951, Disulfiram was the first drug the FDA approved for use in treating alcohol abuse and addiction. Disulfiram changes the way the body processes alcohol. Therefore, if a patient who is taking Disulfiram has a drink of alcohol, the patient will become sick. The related sickness tends to curb the patient’s eagerness to drink. One drawback to the drug is it is only effective if the patient continues to take the medication. Patients generally do tire of feeling sick whenever they would like to drink. Instead of no longer consuming alcohol, some patients stop taking the medication and resume drinking without the medicine-induced illness. Nevertheless, Disulfiram can be very effective for patients who are highly motivated to stop drinking and, therefore, are willing to continue to take the medicine as directed.
Instead of causing patients to feel ill when they consume alcohol, Naltrexone allows people who take it prior to drinking to feel drunk without pleasure. The idea behind the drug’s mechanism is to eliminate the “rewards” people who struggle with alcohol abuse or addiction receive when they drink. Because the drug eliminates pleasure from drinking, people who take it as prescribed are much less likely to crave alcohol. Naltrexone works best for people who stop drinking at least four days prior to beginning treatment with the drug. Healthcare professionals can administer the drug as a pill the patient must take daily or as a monthly injection the patient must receive at a healthcare office. The ultimate goal can range from patient to patient. Some patients use Naltrexone to stop drinking completely while others use the drug to abstain from alcohol for a specified number of days, drink less heavily at certain times, cut back on total number of drinks, or have fewer drinking binges that require an ER visit.
Healthcare professionals use Acamprosate to ease withdrawal symptoms. When an individual experiences alcohol withdrawal, he or she may experience insomnia, restlessness, anxiety, or a generally depressed mood. Acamprosate interacts with GABA and glutamate in the brain. GABA helps control fear and anxiety when the nerve cells are overstimulated while glutamate stimulates the nerve cells. These two messengers become unbalanced when a person drinks heavily for a long time. Acamprosate levels out the balance and provides improved stability. Similar to Naltrexone, this drug is best suited for people who are able to stop drinking prior to taking the medication. Dosing guidelines call for two to three pills a day, which may make Acamprosate less suitable for people who are averse to taking pills or who are unable to stick to a frequent dosing schedule.
Medication-Supported Alcohol Abuse and Addiction Treatment is Available
Quitting cold turkey is not the only option. Individuals who would like to cut down on their alcohol consumption or stop drinking entirely should contact a medical professional to explore the possibilities Disulfiram, Naltrexone, and Acamprosate may offer. Contact a substance abuse counselor today at 833-762-3765 to learn more about whether medication-supported treatment is the right option for you.