Absolutely! Because millions of people struggle with alcohol dependence, medications are available to help curb the desire to consume alcohol. Medications have been used for decades to help treat and prevent alcohol abuse and the results continue to be encouraging. In fact, the first medication to be used for alcohol dependence was first prescribed as early as the 1950s. However, it is very important to participate in therapy and 12-step meetings as well.
What Medications are Available?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three medications for the use of treating alcohol dependence:
This is the oldest medication to be prescribed for the treatment of alcohol abuse and entered the market in 1951. Because this is the oldest medication, it is also the most heavily tested medication for alcoholism. It works by preventing the accumulation of acetaldehyde, which is a key ingredient for a hangover.
• It has been in existence since 1951 so it has been tested and administered the longest
• When taken regularly, this medication is highly effective. Supervised administration is used often to aid in compliance.
• This medication should not be used in those with severe heart disease
• Does not reduce the cravings for alcohol
• Drinking while taking this medication causes a severe hangover, which may last from 30 minutes to a few hours, and includes nausea, vomiting, headache, increased heart rate, and flushing of the skin.
This is the most commonly prescribed medication for those struggling with alcohol dependence. It works to reduce the cravings for alcohol by blocking the opiates in alcohol. It can also help maintain total abstinence over time.
• Available in a monthly injection (Vivitrol)
• May reduce the amount of alcohol ingested if actively drinking
• Reduces cravings and withdrawls
• Should not be used in patients with severe liver damage
• Opiates must be avoided while taking this mediation
• Liver enzymes must be monitored
• Abdominal cramping and diarrhea
This medication is believed to work by stabilizing the chemical imbalance created by alcohol use. Acamprosate only prevents drinking as long as it is being taken regularly.
• May help with withdrawal symptoms, such as mood swings, anxiety, and sleep issues
• Medication is metabolized by the kidneys, making it a good alternative for patients with liver damage
• Helps patients remain sober
• Must be taken three times per day
• May cause headaches and diarrhea
While these medications work to psychically treat alcohol abuse, therapy is an integral component to your treatment in order to help you recover from the mental cravings of alcoholism.
Dr. Amanda Itzkoff is trained in Psychotherapy and Psychopharmacology in New York, and can help you move beyond the physical and mental symptoms that may be caused by alcohol abuse. If you are looking for more information on alcohol abuse, please feel free to contact us via email. To schedule a consultation, please contact our office at 917-609-4990.