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Medications Used in Alcohol Addiction Treatment Centers

Alcohol addiction can be very intense and problematic, even during treatment. Some withdrawal symptoms of alcohol are life-threatening while cravings for it can be very difficult on an alcoholic in treatment. There are a range of medications that are often used to treat alcohol addiction in treatment centers.

Medications for Alcohol Addiction Treatment

alcoholism treatment

Medications can help you recover from alcohol abuse and addiction.

Medication is often necessary when a person is being treated for alcohol addiction. Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol addiction can be intense and, according to the NLM, may include:

  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares
  • Sweating
  • “Rapid heart rate”

There is also a “severe form of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens” which causes a person to have seizures, hallucinations, and fevers among other dangerous symptoms. Aside from withdrawal, alcohol in large quantities can cause “organ damage” and other problems for the patient. Cravings for alcohol can also be very intense before, during, and after withdrawal symptoms occur. Medication is used to treat many of these symptoms and effects during treatment.

Types of Alcohol Addiction Treatment Medications

The NIAAA lists several of the types of alcohol addiction medications that are used in treatment. Some are used to curb withdrawal while others are used to treat cravings and different symptoms. The “medicines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat alcohol dependence” are:

  • Disulfiram (Antabuse)- makes the experience of drinking more unpleasant when mixed with this drug
  • Naltrexone (Vivitrol)-  an opiate antagonist that decreases alcohol cravings
  • Acamprosate (Campral)- helps “the brains of people who have drunk large amounts of alcohol work normally again” (NLM)

Benzodiazepines are also used in alcohol addiction treatment. These medications are used to treat withdrawal symptoms that are experienced by alcohol addicts. Benzos “are depressants that produce sedation, induce sleep, relieve anxiety and muscle spasms, and prevent seizures” (DOJ).

According to the NIAAA, “medications marketed for other illnesses also have shown efficacy in treating AUDs [Alcohol Use Disorders], such as topiramate, which is approved to treat epilepsy and migraines.” Depending on the needs of the person, a different combination of medications might be used in alcohol addiction treatment.

The Most Effective Use of Medication for Alcohol Addiction Treatment

The most effective way that medication can be used for alcohol addiction treatment is if it is “combined with behavioral treatment” (NIAAA). Alcohol addiction is something many addicts struggle with their entire lives. Simply getting through withdrawal does not cure the addiction, and the use of behavioral therapies in conjunction with medication is the most effective way to treat the actual addiction. Medications make it safer, easier, and also curb some of the symptoms, such as cravings.

The NIAAA states that “maintaining contact with patients and emphasizing adherence appear to be key to successful treatment with medications.” This means that the patient must use the medication correctly and be in good contact with his or her doctor in order to receive the most favorable results. There are many ways that medications help those in alcohol addiction treatment, but they must be used in the right way and with other treatments as well.