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Alcoholism Treatment Options

Alcoholics are rarely able to control their drinking and most will need to abstain from alcohol completely.

Alcoholism Treatment options available for alcoholics include:

  • Residential addiction treatment
  • Outpatient addiction treatment programs
  • Specialty addiction treatment programs, such as Christian alcoholism treatment, Gender specific treatment, treatment for seniors, etc.
  • Private counseling
  • Medication (Antabuse, naltrexone, acamprosate)
  • Participation in AA, and/or other peer support groups
  • Residency in a sober living house (halfway house)

Alcoholism Treatment Medications

In addition to support groups, counseling and other professional addiction treatments, medication can also play a role in the recovery process. No medication for alcoholism works as a stand alone treatment, but when combined with other forms of professional treatment, medications can reduce the intensity of cravings and withdrawal symptoms and improve the chances of lasting sobriety.

The FDA has approved 3 medications for the treatment of alcoholism:

  1. Disulfiram (Antabuse) – People taking disulfiram cannot drink alcohol without getting violently ill. This form of negative reinforcement helps people maintain abstinence while taking the medication.
  2. Naltrexone – Works by reducing blocking dopamine receptors in the brain, thereby reducing the pleasure typically experienced while drinking. In addition to taking a lot of the fun out of drinking, naltrexone also seems to reduce alcohol cravings, although how or why it does this remains poorly understood. Naltrexone can be taken as a daily medication (Revia) or as a monthly injection (Vivitrol). It cannot be used by people who are opiate users (or abusers) or those with liver damage.
  3. Acamprosate (Campral) – Acamprosate helps to reduce the long term withdrawal symptoms of alcohol.
Another drug Topirimate, which is an epilepsy medication, is currently under investigation for the treatment of alcoholism. Initial clinical trials indicate that it works well to reduce drinking by reducing the amount of dopamine released in the brain.1

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