The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three medications for treating alcohol abuse and alcoholism (now called alcohol dependence). They are only prescribed for people who have quit drinking and do not “cure” alcoholism.

No medications exist that are prescribed for current drinkers that can cause them to abstain.

Disulfiram
Disulfiram (marketed as Antabuse and Antabus) is taken by an alcoholic and causes a sever negative reaction if alcohol is consumed. This can help people quit drinking if that is their desire. Failure to take the medication enables a person to drink alcohol without unusual effects.
Antabuse acts by preventing the body from fully metabolizing alcohol, thus causing a very high buildup of acetaldehyde. This substance causes the severely unpleasant reactions.
Naltrexone
Naltrexone (naltrexone hydrochloride), marketed as Revia, Depade and Vivitrol, tends to reduce the craving for alcohol experienced when alcohol dependent people abstain from the beverage.
Naltrexone operates by preventing the brain from experiencing pleasure from the effects of drinking alcohol. However, it is not effective for everyone who takes it.
Acamprosate
Acamprosate, marketed as Campral, reduces the physical and emotional discomforts often experienced by alcoholics after they stop drinking. These include anxiety, sweating and sleep problems.
Acamprosate’s side effects tend to be minimal and it is not addictive. Therefore, it is often prescribed for up to a year after abstinence begins.

Summary

Disulfiram makes people sick if they drink alcohol, naltrexone prevents them alcohol from experiencing pleasure (a “high”) from alcohol, and acamprosate reduces discomforts often experienced when alcoholics first abstain from alcohol.

These options can be discussed with your physician, who knows your specific medical history and can provide informed advice.

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Filed Under: Treatments