What Are the Different Medications Used to Treat Alcohol Disorders?

What Are the Different Medications Used to Treat Alcohol Disorders?

What Are the Different Medications Used to Treat Alcohol Disorders?

The iconic Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” This is the suffering that those of us struggling with alcohol disorders often feel. It is a hopeless feeling; an “alone” feeling; a feeling that we are wholly unique. The truth is that we are not unique in our addiction, and we do not need to suffer any longer. There are more options than ever to recover from alcohol disorders. Some of those options include various medications and medication management.

The Importance of Comprehensive Care for Alcohol Disorders

When it comes to alcohol disorders, or any form of addiction for that matter, the key to recovery is individualized and comprehensive treatment planning. One of the hardest parts of getting help for addiction is asking for it. So that step should be rewarded with the type of individualized care that is going to best fit an individual’s needs.

Yes, some recovery plans include medication and medication management. However, medication should never be the sole component of a treatment plan. There are many other modalities that can be utilized in order to help individuals recover. These include traditional therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). A comprehensive plan should also include experiential therapies such as art and music therapy. Lastly, there are many holistic options, such as yoga, breathwork, and meditation, that can be vital supplements to any evidence-based recovery plan.

Utilizing Medication for Alcohol Disorders

Many people still stigmatize medication for alcohol disorders as though it is some form of “dodge” or “work-around” type of recovery. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Ultimately, the key to recovery is finding out what works best for the individual. For some people, that includes medication.

Alcohol disorders are chronic diseases, which means they are no different than any other type of chronic disease, such as diabetes or cancer. Alcohol disorders will only get worse unless some type of professional intervention takes place. Yes, part of this intervention, for some, includes medication. But, there is no reason for stigmatizing this. After all, would we stigmatize someone with cancer or diabetes for taking medication? Of course not.

Understanding the Different Medications for Alcohol Disorders

Many different medications can be utilized to aid in someone’s recovery from an alcohol disorder. Three of the more common ones are naltrexone, disulfiram, and acamprosate.

One important aspect to understand about these medications is that they are not “cures” for alcohol disorders. Rather, they are aids that can help reduce cravings and inhibit the desire to drink while other types of therapy work to heal at a more cellular level.

Utilizing Naltrexone for Alcohol Disorders

Naltrexone is a medication that works to block the areas of the brain that get pleasure from alcohol (and other substances). When this happens, the individual simply feels less of a desire for alcohol.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “Naltrexone is an agent that blocks opioid receptors, particularly the μ-opioid receptor. The use of this agent in animal models leads to a reduction of dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens12-14 and a reduction in alcohol intake. The effect of environmental cues and associated alcohol craving can also be blocked by pretreatment with opioid-receptor antagonists in both animals and humans.” To break this down into layman’s terms, it has been proven to reduce cravings for alcohol in both animals and humans.

Utilizing Disulfiram for Alcohol Disorders

Disulfiram is perhaps the most well-known type of alcohol addiction medication. It is more commonly known by its brand name “Anabuse.” 

Disulfiram works by stopping the breakdown of alcohol within the body. When this happens, a “toxic build-up” occurs and the individual can become very sick. The thought of this sick feeling often deters those using disulfiram from drinking.

Utilizing Acamprosate for Alcohol Disorders

Acamprosate works to reduce the cravings for alcohol, while also reducing the symptoms of alcohol withdrawals. This combination can be vital for certain individuals who tend to experience chronic relapsing.

According to the article Acamprosate for Treatment of Alcohol Dependence: Mechanisms, Efficacy, and Clinical Utility, “The exact mechanism of action of acamprosate is still under investigation, but the drug appears to work by promoting a balance between the excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters, glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, respectively, and it may help individuals with alcohol dependence by reducing withdrawal-associated distress.” Again, in layman’s terms: it helps individuals with cravings, so they can focus on more important avenues of their recovery.

A Better Version of You: Our Mission at Restoration Recovery

Our mission at Restoration Recovery is to help our clients succeed by any means necessary. This includes the use of medication management as needed.

Thich Nhat Hanh also famously once said, “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.” That is what medication for alcohol disorders is intended for. It will get us through today, so we can enjoy the successful tomorrow in recovery that we all deserve.

Medication is sometimes necessary to help an individual heal from an addiction disorder. For some individuals, different kinds of medications, such as naltrexone, disulfiram, and acamprosate, can be vital for the recovery process. The key is to utilize them in tandem with other treatment modalities, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), with a strong focus on medication management. If you feel like you or a loved one may be struggling with issues of addiction or dual diagnosis, we can help you become a better version of yourself. For more information on how medication can help with alcohol disorders, please call Restoration Recovery today at (888) 290-0925.

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