Can Medications Help Me Stop Drinking?

Can Medications Help Me Stop Drinking?

Nearly 20 million U.S. adults suffer from alcoholism, binge drinking, and so-called “functional” alcoholism. Beer, wine, and hard liquors are central nervous system depressants that disrupt brain chemistry, damage brain cells, and impair the functioning of all major organs. Long-term alcohol abusers often need liver transplants due to cirrhosis of the liver. Kidney and heart disease are commonly diagnosed in aging alcoholics as well.

Medications are available that can help you stop drinking. However, they work best for people who have completed an alcohol abuse treatment program involving psychological guidance and counseling necessary for a recovering alcoholic to resolve the emotional issues that initially led to alcohol abuse.

Disulfiram (Antabuse)

Medications intended to treat alcohol abuse work in different ways. In 1951, Antabuse became the first drug approved by the U.S. FDA for the treatment of alcohol use disorder. Taking Antabuse and then drinking alcohol causes the drinker to feel like they are suffering from a severe hangover. Face flushing, throbbing head and neck pain, nausea, rapid heart rate, dizziness, and vomiting are side effects of combining alcohol with Antabuse. Instead of reducing cravings, Antabuse discourages alcohol consumption by causing unpleasant hangover-like symptoms.

Antabuse works by interfering with the way the body breaks down alcohol. A toxic chemical called acetaldehyde accumulates in the body when alcohol is metabolized. Antabuse prevents the metabolization of acetaldehyde, resulting in physiological reactions that should dissuade the person from drinking.

Consuming more than one drink after taking Antabuse may cause life-threatening reactions. Antabuse labels contain a black box warning about the risks of the drug.

Acamprosate (Campral)

Approved by the U.S. FDA in 2004, Campral helps curb cravings by stabilizing chemical signaling in the brain chemistry and reducing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. However, research has shown that Campral works best when combined with therapy and psychosocial support provided by inpatient or outpatient treatment programs.

Individuals taking Campral should be informed about potentially serious side effects, such as arrhythmia, allergic reactions, or sudden changes in blood pressure. Common side effects of Campral include insomnia, diarrhea, and headaches.

Naltrexone (Revia)

Use to manage both opioid abuse and alcoholism, naltrexone reduces cravings and the intoxication effects caused by alcohol. By acting as an opioid antagonist, Naltrexone blocks feelings of euphoria and sedation attributed to alcohol and opioid abuse. Common side effects include nausea, sleep difficulties, and nervousness.

Some people respond better to naltrexone than acamprosate and vice versa. Studies indicate that naltrexone appears to significantly alleviate a person’s desire to drink while acamprosate works better to eliminate, or at least control, alcohol abuse.

Hickory Treatment Centers offers continuing support for people who complete all phases of an alcohol abuse recovery program. Outpatient counseling and group support are available as well as 12-step programs providing 24-hour peer support to promote sober living through making good choices, enhancing personal and family relationships, and achieving your sobriety goals.

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If you have tried to stop using alcohol or drugs on your own, you may feel that sobriety and clean living seem far away. However, with the help of caring staff members and a safe, structured environment, you can receive the guidance you need to fight cravings and regain control of your life.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our admission staff or learn more about our healing programs.