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Alcohol MedicationsAlcoholism is a serious disease that can have major implications on your health and wellbeing.

Alcoholism can affect not only your life but the life of your family members and friends.

While there is no pill that will magically make alcoholism go away there are a few alcohol medications that are FDA approved to help you control your alcohol cravings.

This should help you cut back on cravings and ultimately heavy drinking.

Types of Alcohol Medications

Alcohol medications can also help reduce the affect alcohol has on your body.  This in turn can help make the desire to drink less strong.

They can also help lessen the awful withdrawal symptoms that accompany quitting drinking.  This can help you get over the worst part of quitting alcohol and greatly increase your chances of success.

There are three main drugs that have been approved by the FDA to help in the treatment of alcoholism.  Below is an explanation of each drug and how they help treat alcoholism.

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Antabuse

Antabuse is the oldest FDA approved drug for the treatment of alcoholism. It was created over 50 years ago.

Antabuse was formulated to cause very bad and unpleasant side effects whenever even trace amounts of alcohol have been ingested.

Some of the adverse side effects it causes are

  • headache
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • anxiety
  • mental confusion
  • and tachycardia

You will also immediately start feeling very weak and sweaty. You may even have difficulty breathing.

Antabuse was developed in the 1930s after employees of a rubber factory begin complaining of illness after they drank alcohol.  

They found that the tetraethylthiuram disulfide found in the factory caused this reaction to alcohol.

After a lot of testing doctors began prescribing Antabuse to those who have alcoholism.  

Unfortunately, many of the people who took Antabuse suffered from such severe reactions, some of them even fatal, the FDA decided to lower the recommended dosage.  

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The FDA strongly recommends that before Antabuse is prescribed the patient should have a clear understanding of the severe side effects that can occur when mixing Antabuse and alcohol.  

The FDA also strongly encourages that a patient not be prescribed Antabuse without regular monitoring and counseling.  

Several studies have shown that Antabuse is much more effective when used with other rehabilitative treatments such as therapy and counseling.  

Antabuse works because it blocks acetaldehyde from being converted into acetic acid.  This is toxic for the body and makes the patient immediately feel very sick.

Antabuse does not help with cravings for alcohol.  Rather it is formulated to help you not want to drink for fear of becoming extremely sick.  

Antabuse is given by pill form.  It is both tasteless and odorless.  It can be given in 250 mg pills or 500 mg pills.  The recommended dosage for an adult is 500mg. It is recommended that once you begin taking Antabuse you continue to take it to ensure that your desire to quit drinking lasts.  

While there are no withdrawal symptoms associated with Antabuse up to 20 percent of your dosage can stay in your body for up to two weeks.  This means that even after you stop taking Antabuse you may experience some of the horrible side effects when consuming alcohol well after you have stopped the Antabuse.  

It is important to not take Antabuse for at least 12 hours after consuming alcohol.  

Antabuse is a great addition to an alcohol treatment program.  It can be used long-term, up to 2 years as an effective way to help ensure sobriety.  It can also be started again after the patient has stopped taking it.

Naltrexone

Naltrexone is an extremely effective medication in helping treat both alcohol addiction and opioid addiction.  They work by essentially stopping the high feelings of euphoria that accompany drug and alcohol use. Naltrexone does this by binding itself to the receptor sites that drugs or alcohol attach to.  This inhibits the drugs and alcohol from being able to create a high.

Naltrexone works so well in addicts because it eliminates the high that alcoholics and drug addicts are chasing.  You will no longer feel like having more and more alcohol.

Naltrexone comes in many forms.  A patient can take Naltrexone in pill form daily.  Or recently, Naltrexone can be injected into the patient once a month.  

Naltrexone does have some adverse side effects that you need to be aware of.  It can cause stomach upset, nausea, and even vomiting. Some people have reported feeling dizzy.  Some have said they have more headaches when on Naltrexone. It has also been reported to cause either sleepiness or difficulty sleeping.  You may even have many of the symptoms of a cold like aches and pains, cramps, and toothaches.

Vivitrol, the injectable form of Naltrexone has been a great improvement for a lot of addicts.  It can help you reach your goal of living a sober life. VIvitrol is administered by a doctor or nurse.  Many doctors require you to be a part of a supervised alcohol treatment program to qualify for Vivitrol.

Naltrexone works best for those patients who are extremely motivated to quit their addictions.  Vivitrol can help you focus on your rehabilitation program.

While Naltrexone is a relatively inexpensive medication, Vivitrol is much more expensive.  Make sure to check with your insurance to see if Vivitrol is even an option for your recovery.  Often times, addicts are facing the financial consequences of their diseases at the beginning of recovery making the Vivitrol cost not feasible.  

If you choose to take Vivitrol make sure you take the medication very seriously.  You must make your monthly shot a main priority. If you miss your shot Vivitrol will not be as effective.  

Although Naltrexone and Vivitrol are a great option for alcoholics they will not cure alcoholism.  It is very important to understand this concept before taking these medications.

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Campral

Interestingly, about 7 percent of Americans have a problem with alcohol.  This is a huge number. Campral is a medication that can help alcoholics.

Campral was formulated to help its patients lose their desire to drink alcohol.  Campral was first developed by a French pharmaceutical company in the 1980s. It wasn’t approved in the United States until 2004.

Campral works by regulating the nervous system.  It is thought to not allow your nervous system to get too excited.  While it is not completely known how Campral works, it is thought to help control cravings by eliminating the positive response that you get from drinking.  This will hopefully help with an alcoholic’s cravings.

Campral does not help or prevent any withdrawal symptoms.  Withdrawal should always be taken very seriously and sometimes should be monitored by medical professionals.

A medical professional will usually prescribe Campral as part of a rehabilitation plan.  The patient will be given Campral about 5 days after they have completely stopped drinking.  However, Campral can actually be taken with alcohol without negative interactions so it can be given to the patient earlier.

One major positive about Campral is it can be taken in addicts who also suffer from opioid addiction.  It is a safe drug that can be used with many other medications without harmful interactions.

Campral can even be taken with Naltrexone.  It can help further support sober living. Studies have shown that a combination of both drugs can help the patient have greater success than just one of the medications alone.

Campral is a good choice even after a patient becomes sober.  This is because the brain chemistry after detoxification may not be completely in balance.  This can result in your body going through small withdrawals over and over again. Campral can prevent this from happening.

Since Campral is not an addictive medication it can be taken as a long-term support.  It is not harmful so there is no need to stop when sobriety has been achieved. However, if your doctor feels you are in a place where it is okay to remove the drug it can be discontinued without any withdrawal symptoms.

Campral must be prescribed by your doctor.  It is usually taken 3 times a day.

Campral does have some side effects that patient should be aware of before beginning the drug.  It can cause gastrointestinal problems such a nausea and vomiting. It can cause dry mouth and even distort your tastebuds.  It has been shown to cause flu like symptoms in some patients. Some have reported problems with remembering things or events.

Like the other alcohol medications listed in this article, Campral should be used in addition to counseling and other alcohol treatment programs.

If you do start drinking again while taking Campral it is important to not discontinue the medication.  It is advised that you talk to your doctor immediately to figure out a treatment plan that works best for you.

Alcohol Medications and Alcohol Rehab

Alcohol medications can truly be a great addition to an alcohol rehabilitation program.  However, they will not cure addiction. It is important to participate in counseling and other programs such as AA to have the best chance of sobriety.  It is also important to follow your medical professional’s instructions on the use of alcohol medications.

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