Tapering off alcohol can have dangerous side effects, and your doctor may prescribe some medications to help. This can help improve your changes of a lasting recovery.

What is alcoholism?

Today, alcoholism is referred to as alcohol use disorder. People who have alcohol use disorder drink regularly and in large amounts. They develop a physical dependency over time. When their bodies don’t have alcohol, they experience withdrawal symptoms.

Overcoming alcohol use disorder often requires several steps. The first step is recognizing the addiction and getting help to stop drinking. From there, a person may need any of the following:

  • detoxification in a medical setting
  • inpatient or outpatient treatment
  • counseling

What works for one person may not work for another, but a professional can offer guidance. Many treatment options are available, including medication. These drugs work by changing how the body reacts to alcohol or by managing its long-term effects.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three medications for the treatment of alcohol use disorder. Your doctor can talk about a medication’s pros and cons, availability, and more with you.

People who take this medication and then drink alcohol will experience an uncomfortable physical reaction. This reaction may include:

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

This medication blocks the “feel-good” response alcohol causes. Naltrexone may help reduce the urge to drink and prevent excessive alcohol consumption. Without the satisfying feeling, people with alcohol use disorder may be less likely to drink alcohol.

The injected form of this medication 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 healthcare professional will inject the medication once a month. This is a good option for anyone who has difficulty regularly taking the pill.

This medication may be able to help those who stop drinking alcohol and need help with cognitive function. Long-term alcohol misuse damages the brain’s ability to function properly. Acamprosate may be able to improve it.

If you have alcohol use disorder, medication may help you stop drinking while you take it. Keep in mind medication can’t help change your mindset or lifestyle, though, which are just as important during recovery as stopping drinking.

For a healthy and successful recovery, consider these tips:

Surround yourself with the right people

Part of recovering from alcohol use disorder is changing old behaviors and routines. Some people may not provide the support you need to reach your goals.

Seek out friends, family members, and healthcare professionals who help you stay on your new path.

Get the professional help you need

Alcohol use disorder may be the result of another condition, such as depression or anxiety. It may also cause other conditions, such as:

Treating any and all alcohol-related problems can improve your quality of life and your chances of staying sober.

Join a support group

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 in recovery, and help you manage cravings and relapses.

Find a support group near you. A local hospital or your doctor can also connect you with a support group.