Medications for Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse
The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided.Certain medications can help alleviate symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and help prevent relapse. Your doctor may prescribe medication to reduce cravings for alcohol. Medications are usually prescribed alongside counseling or other psychosocial treatment. Also, alcoholism and alcohol abuse are usually treated with a combination of medications, rather than just one medication. Treatment will vary on a case-by-case basis. Contact your doctor if you have further questions about usage or side effects.
Prescription Medications for Alcoholism and Alcohol AbuseAlcohol Abuse Therapy Adjunct —naltrexone Alcohol Abuse Deterrent —disulfiram AcamprosateBenzodiazepines
Prescription Medications for Alcoholism and Alcohol AbuseAlcohol Abuse Adjunct TherapyCommon name—naltrexoneNaltrexone is used to help you to stay away from alcohol, but it is not a cure for addiction. It may work by blocking the high that makes you crave alcohol. However, it will not, prevent you from experiencing the effects of alcohol. Naltrexone is available as a pill and an injection in the muscle.Possible side effects include:
- Liver damage
- Anxiety , nervousness, and insomnia
- Nausea and vomiting
- Adverse reactions at the injection site
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chest pain
- Lightheadedness, which may lead to fainting
- Sweating and flushing
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid heart beat
- Rarely, suicidal thoughts
Special ConsiderationsContact your doctor if your medication does not seem to be working after the allotted period of time or if you have any side effects that are troublesome or persistent.If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:
- Take your medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
- Know what side effects could occur. Discuss them with your doctor.
- Talk to your doctor before you stop taking the medication.
- Plan ahead for refills if you need them.
- Do not share your medication with anyone.
- Drugs can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor if you are taking more than one drug, including over-the-counter products and supplements.
Antidepressant use in children, adolescents, and adults. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM096273. Updated August 12, 2010. Accessed February 24, 2014.
Buspirone. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 18, 2013. Accessed February 24, 2014.
Disulfiram. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 18, 2013. Accessed February 24, 2014.
Kleber HD, Weiss RD, et al. Guideline Watch: Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Substance Use Disorders. 2nd ed. American Psychiatric Association website. Available at: http://psychiatryonline.org/content.aspx?bookid=28§ionid=1682762. Accessed February 24, 2014.
Myrick H, Brady K. Current review of the comorbidity of affective, anxiety, and substance use disorders. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2003;16:261-270.
5/14/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Vivitrol (naltrexone). US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm106211.htm. Updated August 28, 2013. Accessed February 24, 2014.
2/18/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Serretti A, Mandelli L.Antidepressants and body weight: a comprehensive review and meta-analysis. J Clin Psychiatry. 2010;71(10):1259-1272.
- Reviewer: Peter J. Lucas, MD
- Review Date: 02/2014
- Update Date: 02/24/2014