If you are someone who has decided it is time to stop drinking and begin the road to recovery, you likely have been told that choosing to overcome your addiction is one of the most important decisions in your life. What people may not realize it is also one of the hardest decisions you will make as well; especially if you are trying to quit drinking, but feel like you cannot do it on your own. Fortunately, for the many that may be in the same boat, there are various medications available that can help. So for those who have tried and tried again to quit drinking, please don’t lose hope – there are options available that may work for you.
Although there is medical evidence, that these medications do in fact increase the chance of recovery, it is important to note they are not cures for alcoholism. Rather they assist to stop drinking and to stay sober. Medications should be used along with other treatments and programs to work effectively. Alcoholism affects both the body and mind so the best way to recover is by seeking help for both the mind and body.
Counseling, twelve step programs, treatment centers and other methods can assist with healing the mind. Medications work with your body to overcome alcoholism.
Let’s face it, whether you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and have made the choice to seek help, people don’t realize the initial struggle and the ways the body is affected by the symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal. Consulting with a physician to discuss your medication options will undoubtable provide you with more information to help in the recovery process. If you are not yet ready to consult with a medical professional take a look below to learn more about some of the medications available to you and how they work.
Antabuse (also known by its generic name, Disulfiram), was the first medication approved to treat addiction to alcohol and alcohol abuse. Being first means nothing unless it is effective, right? Well, putting it simply, it works. Numerous studies have proven that Antabuse has not only been effective in reducing cravings for alcohol but also is proven to reduce the risk of relapse as well. (This is including the risk of relapse in adolescent addicts).
So how does it work?
Disulfiram works by targeting and interrupting how the body processes alcohol by blocking the oxidation of alcohol in the body causing a build-up of acetaldehyde. So when alcohol is consumed this buildup causes a number of unpleasant symptoms to your body. The effects occur about ten minutes after alcohol enters a person’s system and they include headache, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, weakness, mental confusion, sweating, flushing of the face, breathing difficulties, blurred vision and anxiety. Sounds awful, right? But this is why it works. More simply (and less scary), Disulfiram works by causing you to become sick to your stomach if you have a drink. Basically, it works because if you know you can’t have a drink, then you won’t be thinking about drinking as much. Kind of brilliant, right?
While Disulfiram does not cure alcoholism, it certainly discourages people from wanting to drink and is likely to cause unpleasant side effects in people even if they consume only small quantities of alcohol.
Side Effects of Disulfiram
Yes there are side effects, but are you surprised? We all have seen commercials for new medications that have a longer (scarier) list of side effects that seem to outweigh the benefits. Well, not Disulfiram. Yes, there are side effects which are detailed below BUT the side effects of Disulfiram are LESS common than the side effects of relapse. There is a light at the end of this tunnel.
In general, during the first one to two weeks of use you will likely feel more tired than usual but this symptom usually only lasts for a week or two. The only other minor side effect which less than one-quarter of the people taking Disulfiram develop is a metallic taste in their mouth, which in most cases goes away very quickly.
The most common major, yet still very rare, side effect of Disulfiram is liver damage. However, many over the counter products we consume regularly – Tylenol – have the same warning. And if you are concerned have your doctor perform a simple blood test to check out the condition of your liver before starting Disulfiram.
It is important to note people taking it should avoid consuming any products that contain alcohol like mouthwashes, tonics, drugs, cough or cold medications, sauces, and vinegars. They should also avoid contact with perfumes, colognes, lacquers, paint thinners, solvents and antiseptics because they could lead to varying side effects.
Disulfiram has been around for a while and that should tell us something about the effectiveness of this drug. Not only does it work but the side effects are more tolerable than many of the prescriptions we all may currently have in our medicine cabinets. If you are considering Disulfiram to assist in your recovery contact your doctor to ensure it is right for you.
Naltrexone is an alternative medication to consider for alcoholism treatment. Unlike Disulfiram, Naltrexone does not make people sick when they drink, rather it reduces the desires and the cravings of alcohol consumption. Does it work? Studies have shown that people who used Naltrexone as part of their treatment had increased abstinence rates over people who were not treated by twenty percent. In fact, there are several studies, which indicate that Naltrexone dramatically reduces relapses and can be as effective as professional alcohol counseling.
So how does it work?
Naltrexone effectively blocks receptors in the brain which are responsible for making endorphins. In doing so, Naltrexone removes the ability to feel the rush from consuming alcohol or drugs. It can be taken in two different forms – (1) a daily pill; or (2) an injection administered by a medical professional once a month. The injection form is referred to as Vivitrol and it provides for extended-release which remains in your system and slowly helps treat alcohol dependence and will you to alcohol abstinence and until your next dose. Basically, Naltrexone reduces the urge for alcohol by directly working on the parts of our brains that are producing the urges.
Side Effects of Naltrexone
Many of the reported side effects from the use Naltrexone are pretty common side effects that are listed on the box of most over the counter medications. The most common side effects of Naltrexone, which only affected a small number of people include headache, constipation, dizziness, nervousness, insomnia, drowsiness and anxiety. For most patients in studies, the side effects are mild and usually brief in duration.
As is the case with Disulfiram (and many other medications), Naltrexone my cause liver damage and blood tests for liver function should be performed before beginning treatment. If you have any concerns or experience any of these side effects, tell your doctor.
Naltrexone does not cure alcoholism, but it can help stop the urge for drinking especially with the use of other treatments. In fact, research studies have shown that Naltrexone was most effective when it was used in combination with treatment from professionals and/or mutual-support groups. If Naltrexone is a treatment that you believe is right for you or a loved one, consult with your doctor for additional information and guidance.
Acamprosate is the most recent medication approved to treat alcohol dependency. It assists people in abstaining from alcohol by reducing the emotional discomfort and physical distress that is commonly experienced when people quit drinking. Does it work? Studies have found that the use Acamprosate with patients who were highly motivated and committed to complete abstinence throughout the treatment had lower relapse risk than less motivated patients. However, as Acamprosate is a fairly new medication, research and studies related to its effectiveness in treating the symptoms of withdrawal are still inconclusive.
So how does it work?
Acamprosate works by assisting your brain to block opioid receptors which causes reductions in craving and in essence restores a chemical balance in the brain that which becomes disrupted after constant alcohol consumption. It can also reduce the anxiety, sleep disturbances and sweating that commonly occur in the beginning stages of abstaining from alcohol use. This can be very helpful for heavy drinkers who have developed a physical dependence for alcohol.
Side Effects of Acamprosate
As with many drugs, the most common side effects of Acamprosate are diarrhea and intestional cramps, itchiness, dizziness, muscle weakness, headache, flatulence, mausea, anxiety, and insomnia. We are all likely familiar with many of these symptoms and it may be safe to say they all seem tolerable.
An additional, less common, but more serious side effect of Acamprosate is depression and suicide risk. Patients should tell their medical professions of any side effects.
Acamprosate works by restoring this chemical balance in the brain in an alcohol-dependent person who has recently QUIT DRINKING. Keep in mind if Acamprosate sounds like the right choice for you it is only used for those who have already quit drinking and will not treat or prevent alcohol withdrawal symptoms and is not likely to be helpful if you have not already quit drinking or undergone detox. However, Acamprosate, together with treatment and counseling support, will effectively help a person who has recently quit drinking alcohol to continue to choose not to drink.
Sobrexa is a liquid herbal solution that aids people in drinking less or quitting drinking all together. It aids your body by getting in back into balance chemically. It is part of the Last Call program, an eight week program designed to help people with alcohol cessation. The two main components of the Last Call program are liquid herbal solutions that you mix with water and consume periodically throughout the day. Sobrexa works over time and slowly helps people lose their desire to drink. Does it work? Sobrexa has an eighty-four percent success rate in aiding alcoholics to get and stay sober.
So how does it work?
Sobrexa contains daidzin, an organic substance found in the kudzu vine. It works through reducing the desire to over-drink alcohol. Kuduz vine contains several notable properties that can help an individual suffering from alcoholism to stop drinking. Sobrexa works by stopping alcohol caused dopamine surges in the pleasure center of a brain which will prevent the urge to drink alcohol because the individual is no longer experiencing pleasure from its use. This may be the very reason why Sobrexa is able to help people quit in such a short period of time.
Side Effects of Sobrexa
Sobrexa is a safe botanical medication for up to 4 months. No side effects have been reported in clinical studies for the use of Sobrexa. I’m sorry, but what? No side effects? This is hard to come by.
As with any medication discuss Sobrexa with your medical profession to ensure Sobrexa does not affect any pre-existing conditions you may have.
Sobrexa appears to have a very high success rate in a brief period of time. No reported side effects is a bonus as well. As with some of the other drugs listed above, Sobrexa aims to block the urge to drink alcohol in our brains. In addition, if you are worried about putting chemicals in your body, Sobrexa may be the choice for you as it contains organic substances to aid in recovery.
Alcohol addiction negatively affects so many aspects of your life or the life of a loved one. And without treatment the addiction will continue to drive an individual’s alcohol abuse, and possibly take their life.
The journey to recovery is clearly not as simple as snapping your fingers. Sometimes we need more than counseling and/or other treatment programs to aid in successfully quitting drinking. Cravings and withdrawal symptoms alone may cause an addict right back to the bottle. This is why it is so important to consider medication to aid in your recovery and treatment.
Research has shown the effectiveness of medications in the treatment of alcoholism. You are not out of options and taking any of these medications might be the extra help you have been missing. Medication when taken in combination with counseling, support groups, and other treatment are extremely effective. Don’t wait another day. Talk to your doctor and get the help you need to take control of your life.