Alcoholism Medication: Glutamate receptor blockers, Aldehyde dehydrogenase inhibitors, Opiate antagonists

Because he is a member of a support group that stresses the importance of anonymity at the public level, he does not use his photograph or his real name on this website. As shown in COMBINE, no single medication or treatment strategy is effective in every case or in every person. Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares strategies for coping with alcohol cravings and other addictions, featuring addiction specialist John Umhau, MD. How you achieve that behavior change can vary from one person to another.

medication to treat alcoholism

Based on preliminary research that suggests aldosterone and MR may contribute to alcohol seeking and consumption, the authors were interested in spironolactone since it can possibly reduce that desire. One of the main reasons researchers studied spironolactone is because the medication is in the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) antagonist drug class. In the United States, 17 million adults ages 18 years or older have alcohol use disorder, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), part of the Department of Health and Human Services. While more research is necessary on using spironolactone for this purpose, the researchers conducted studies with rats, mice, and humans and saw that the medication might have benefits. It is important to caution individuals that they can experience the reaction with any product containing alcohol such as certain mouthwashes and cold remedies, alcohol-containing mouthwash, and food prepared with alcohol. The same result was not seen in patients who were still drinking at the start of the study.


The report included 135 studies and was reviewed by health care professionals, researchers, experts, and the public. Campral (acamprosate) is the most recent medication approved for the treatment of alcohol dependence or alcoholism 5 Tips to Consider When Choosing a Sober Living House in the U.S. Antabuse (disulfiram) was the first medicine approved for the treatment of alcohol misuse and alcohol dependence. It works by causing a severe adverse reaction when someone taking the medication consumes alcohol.

Disulfiram (brand name Antabuse) is another medicine that is sometimes used to treat alcoholism. Naltrexone does not make you feel sick if you drink alcohol while taking it. In 1982, the French company Laboratoires Meram developed acamprosate for the treatment of alcohol dependence. It was tested for safety and efficacy from 1982 until 1988 when it was authorized for use by the French government to treat alcoholism. The FDA approved the use of naltrexone to treat alcohol use disorders in 1994. An extended-release, monthly injectable form of naltrexone is marketed under the trade name Vivitrol.


Antabuse is not available OTC and requires a prescription from a doctor. People should consult with their doctor to determine if it is the right drug for their alcohol dependence. Never take a new medication or adjust existing prescriptions without the approval of a doctor who is aware of previous health issues and current prescriptions. Disulfiram (Antabuse) is a prescription medication that can help prevent a return to alcohol use after an individual has stopped drinking completely. An individual must have a trial of oral naltrexone before starting long-acting injectable naltrexone to ensure they do not have an allergic reaction or intolerable side effects.

  • Most importantly, patients will work closely with their primary therapist and a physician to monitor their progress throughout treatment, make necessary adjustments, and further support the individual.
  • On average, the people who received the medication, called apremilast, reduced their alcohol intake by more than half — from five drinks per day to two.
  • In 1982, the French company Laboratoires Meram developed acamprosate for the treatment of alcohol dependence.
  • She notes that while we see addiction with a wide chemical array of molecules—alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, opiates, and the like—the addictive behavior that results from each is the same.

They were not told to take naltrexone one hour in advance of drinking; no time limit was given. The new study’s targeted approach, in which patients were advised to take the pill before they expected to drink, is less common, although studies going back decades have also demonstrated the effectiveness of the as-needed dosing method. Naltrexone blocks opiate receptors and works by decreasing the craving for alcohol, resulting in fewer relapses. A recent positron emission tomography study demonstrated that persons with alcoholism have increased opiate receptors in the nucleus accumbens of the brain and that the number of receptors correlates with craving. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a set of symptoms that people can have when they stop drinking. The Sinclair Method is the standard treatment protocol for alcohol dependence in Finland, the method is also used in the U.K., but the method has yet to catch on in the United States.


Each of these medications work in different ways to help stave off alcohol cravings and prevent people from picking up a drink. • Acamprosate can be used after alcohol abstinence to alleviate anxiety, restlessness, dysphoria and insomnia as your brain adjusts to life without drinking. If you want to stop drinking, Nancy Beste, an addiction therapist in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, recommends talking to your doctor about the best way to do so. It may turn out that you’re a good candidate for one of three federally approved medications on the market. During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, adults 50 and older led the way as most likely to increase their alcohol consumption, according to a 2022 study from researchers in California.

The way this process works is when people normally drink alcohol, endorphins are released into the brain, and this reinforces the behavior of drinking alcohol. Much like when Pavlov’s dogs were presented with food when a bell was rung, these dogs became conditioned to salivate at the sound of the bell alone. However, when these dogs continued to be presented with the ringing bell and no food, the salivating stopped. With the Sinclair Method, Revia or Vivitrol is taken one hour before drinking alcohol.

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