Medication to Curb Alcohol Cravings

According to a national survey, more than 13 million adults had an alcohol use disorder in 2019. Addiction is a complicated disease that requires various measures for different people. During and after detox, many treatment centers prescribe medication to curb alcohol cravings for severe cases. Though medication to stop drinking sounds counterintuitive, it plays a significant role in many people’s recovery from alcohol addiction.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is commonly paired with the term “alcohol use disorder” (AUD). Individuals with an AUD tend to drink alcohol in large amounts regularly. Most people who suffer from alcoholism build a physical dependency on their chosen substance. In many cases, physical reliance on substances causes people to experience uncomfortable and even dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Addiction is a complicated disease and often requires many steps to overcome. The first step for most people dealing with addiction is recognizing unhealthy habits and behaviors. Once this step is taken, the individual may find the level of care that best bits their needs. 

Many treatment options are available, but for more challenging addictions, many treatment centers offer medication. Many medications for alcoholism change how the body reacts to alcohol. Others may help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. 

Medications for Alcoholism

Substance abuse treatment refers to the various methods available to help free people from addiction. Each individual may find success through a particular method that fits their needs. Finding proper treatment for you is vital since everyone is different. So far, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three medications to treat alcoholism. Consult your doctor for further information regarding these medications.

Naltrexone Injection (Vivitrol)

medications for alcoholism

Vivitrol and ReVia are both medications for alcoholism. Healthcare professionals utilize Naltrexone injections to block the “feel-good” response alcohol causes in the body. Many people prefer the injection since it lasts for a month. 

Vivitrol injections are used mainly as a relapse prevention technique. It can help people stop drinking altogether since it is a medication to curb alcohol cravings. Though it is helpful in many AUD cases, it’s not a permanent cure for alcoholism or drug addiction.

Naltrexone (ReVia)

ReVia is an oral version of Vivitrol. The effects are the same, but individuals prescribed ReVia regularly take a pill instead of a monthly injection. ReVia intends to take away the feeling of satisfaction many people get from consuming alcohol. When substances no longer spark that satisfying feeling, people with an AUD are less likely to drink alcohol. 

Disulfiram (Antabuse)

Antabuse is another useful medication that helps people stop drinking. This medication causes an uncomfortable physical reaction once combined with alcohol. Therefore, people who take it tend to avoid drinking alcohol. The intentional response Antabuse causes include symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain 
  • Difficulty breaking

Acamprosate (Campral)

Campral is the brand name for a drug called acamprosate. Acamprosate is explicitly designed for people dealing with alcoholism. Similar to the other mentioned medications for alcoholism, Campral is intended to reduce alcohol cravings. It is important to note, though, that Campral does not affect any symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Side effects associated with Campral include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Digestive discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia 
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness

Campral is distinguished from other medications for alcoholism since it’s not broken down by digestion. This makes it safe for people with liver issues.  

Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder

AUD is a medical condition that impairs many people’s ability to control or stop alcohol use. Alcohol abuse leads to many consequences, usually dealing with health, occupation, or social. Though alcoholism is considered a brain disorder, AUD can range from mild to severe. Alcohol misuse may result in mental, emotional, and physical consequences. 

Even people with severe alcohol use disorders can recover, though. Most rehabilitation programs offer evidence-based treatment that helps people at any stage of addiction.  

Who Is At Risk for AUD?

Misuse of alcohol may refer to how often, how much, and how quickly someone consumes alcohol. Both heavy alcohol use and binge drinking are included in AUD. Several other factors play a role in a person’s risk for developing AUD, including:

  • Family history of alcohol problems and genetics. AUD risk is sometimes associated with a person’s genes, but their environment is another crucial factor. Children exposed to their parents’ unhealthy drinking patterns have a higher likelihood of developing AUD later in life. 
  • Drinking at a young age. A national survey found that people who began drinking before age fifteen were over five times more likely to report suffering from alcoholism. The survey showed women in this group were at a higher risk than men.
  • History of trauma and mental health disorders. Many psychiatric disorders put people at a higher risk of developing AUD. Unfortunately, many people with conditions such as anxiety, OCD, and depression look to substances as a form of self-medication. 

Symptoms of AUD

To assess if a person has AUD, healthcare professionals utilize criteria based on mild to severe symptoms. During the assessment, a healthcare provider may ask you some of the following questions. 

In the past year, have you:

  • Tried to stop or cut down drinking but were unsuccessful?
  • Desired a drink so badly, you could not focus on anything else?
  • Drank more or longer than you intended?
  • Found that alcohol has gotten in the way of hobbies, your occupation, or your family?
  • Continued your drinking habits even though it has caused trouble in your personal life?
  • Continued drinking even though it triggered feelings of anxiety or depression? 
  • Found it takes more drinks to reach your desired effects from alcohol?
  • Experienced withdrawal effects when not drinking alcohol? Such as restlessness, shakiness, nausea, sweating, rapid heart rate, or trouble sleeping?

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, consists of a combination of medication and therapy. MAT programs typically use methods like individual counseling, group therapy, peer support, and medication. These programs help patients deal with the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of their addiction.

Therapy paired with medication to curb alcohol cravings helps patients focus on the important aspects of recovery. Though MAT may not be for everyone, it can successfully treat many people’s AUD. Both elements of MAT play a massive role in the recovery of many individuals. Medications help curb alcohol cravings, while several therapy options help people deal with the triggers that feed into their addiction. This combination allows patients to develop a mindset of sober living.

Therapeutic Treatments

A key aspect of addiction treatment is therapy. Therapy helps people in treatment deal with trauma and other unhealthy behavior. Many people in treatment have childhood trauma or other co-occurring health conditions which feed into their addiction. Therapeutic treatments help people break down behavior and understand how to improve their quality of life. 

Individual Therapy

medication to curb alcohol cravingsIndividual therapy is an excellent tool in addiction treatment. In individual therapy, a patient works one-on-one with a licensed therapist to sift through their emotions, challenges, and behaviors. When dealing with alcoholism, it is essential to understand addiction and how it alters your life, as well as the lives of others. 

Individual counseling provides patients with a safe and secure place where the patient can feel comfortable talking about uncomfortable subjects. The ultimate goal of individual therapy is to help the patient healthily address their behavior. Individual counseling plays a prominent role in MAT as well. As patients begin to distance themselves from substances, they can address emotions they’ve ignored or numbed. 

Group Therapy

Group therapy is a standard program many treatment centers offer. This generally involves a licensed therapist and a group of two or more individuals. These therapist-led sessions allow people in recovery to express their emotions, challenges, and goals. The benefits of group therapy come from the support given and the support gained during each session. Through medication-assisted treatment, patients are encouraged to participate in each therapy available. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is heavily used in almost every MAT. After and during detox, people recommended to MAT use medications to curb alcohol cravings while participating in therapy. CBT is effective for people dealing with alcoholism because it helps patients evaluate their thought patterns and behaviors.

Addiction is considered a disease, and it can drastically alter a person’s frame of mind. Medications for alcoholism combined with therapy let patients break bad cognitive habits and implement new strategies for a happier and more fulfilling life. Some of the many benefits one may receive from cognitive behavioral therapy include:

  • Cognitive reframing and a positive shift in behavior
  • Recognition of how behaviors and thought processes can cause issues
  • Recognition of how difficult situations can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms
  • Gained problem-solving and coping skills

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, helps patients accept aspects of themselves instead of changing them. DBT covers the limitations of CBT. Therapists utilize aspects of DBT with patients that have difficult conditions to treat. DBT helps patients build skills, such as:

  • Distress tolerance
  • Mindfulness
  • Emotional regulation
  • Interpersonal effectiveness

DBT helps patients maintain healthy relationships. Many people in treatment benefit from skills like emotional and stress regulation. 

Find Help Through Addiction Intervention Today

In treatment, therapists and experienced staff members help direct clients to a treatment that best fits their needs. Learning about each treatment may benefit you if you are looking for treatment. If you or your loved one are unable to control alcohol use, several programs may help. At Addiction Intervention, we can help you or your loved one find the best treatment possible. Contact us today. 

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