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Medication for Alcoholism

What Is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a disease of abuse. Many alcohol addicts develop their dependency over years of alcohol abuse. People who abuse alcohol drink regularly and in large amounts.

Alcohol-dependent people are often preoccupied with alcohol. They think obsessively about having their next drink. Most develop a physical dependency, or an addiction, to the alcohol. When their bodies don’t have it, they experience symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms include sweating, shaking, and anxiety.

Treating an alcohol addiction isn’t one-size-fits all. What works for one person may not work for another. Alcoholics also often resist the people who encourage them to seek treatment. Whether you’re concerned about a friend or family member, or you’ve recognized a problem with your own drinking habits, you can find help. A professional can offer advice and guidance for getting sober. And medication is also available.

How Medicine Can Treat Addiction

Treatment for an alcohol addiction often requires several steps. The first step is recognizing addiction and moving toward recovery. From there, a person may need to go through detoxification, participate in counseling, and work to stay sober. Each stage in the recovery process is designed to help addicts learn to control and end their addiction.

One option for treating alcohol addiction is medication. Oral and injected medicines have been shown to help treat alcoholism by changing how the body reacts to alcohol and by managing its long-term effects.

Oral Medications

Oral medications come in the form of pills or liquid solutions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved only three medications for the treatment of alcoholism.

Disulfiram (Antabuse). People who take this medicine and then drink alcohol will experience an uncomfortable physical reaction. This reaction may include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • headaches
  • chest pain
  • weakness
  • difficulty breathing
  • anxiety

Naltrexone (ReVia). This medicine blocks the feel-good response alcohol causes. Naltrexone may help reduce the urge to drink and prevent excessive alcohol consumption. Without the satisfying feeling, addicts may be less likely to drink at all.

Acamprosate (Campral). This medicine may be able to help if you stopped drinking alcohol and need help with cognitive functions. Acamprosate can help repair the brains of people who have experienced chronic alcoholism. Long-term alcohol abuse negatively alters the brain’s ability to function properly. Acamprosate may be able to improve it.

Injected Medications

Naltrexone injection (Vivitrol). The injected form of this medication can also help treat alcoholism. Injected naltrexone produces the same results as the oral version — it blocks the feel-good response alcohol causes in the body.

If you use this form of naltrexone, a doctor will inject the medicine once a month. This is a good option for anyone who has difficulty taking the oral version regularly.

More Than Medication

Medication can’t do all the work. No matter where you are in your recovery, these tips will help you plan your path to good health and keep you moving in the right direction.

Develop a treatment plan with a medical expert. Part of learning to live again after recovering from alcohol dependency is changing your old behaviors. Groups of people you once knew may not be the support you need to reach your goals. Seek out friends, family members, and even healthcare professionals who encourage a new path for you.

Get the help you need. Alcoholism may be the result of another condition, such as depression or anxiety. Alcoholism may also cause other conditions, such as high blood pressure, liver disease, or even heart disease. Treating all alcohol-related problems can improve your quality of life and your chances of staying sober.

Find continued support. A support group or care program may be helpful for you and your loved ones. These programs are designed to encourage you, teach you about coping with life after alcohol, and help you manage relapses.

A local hospital or your doctor should be able to connect you with a support group. Alcoholism recovery requires a lifetime of commitment and work. When you stop drinking, the road to staying sober begins.

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