The Pharmaceutical Approach to Lifelong Sobriety


The Pharmaceutical Approach to Lifelong Sobriety

There are many different approaches to treating alcohol use, abuse and addiction, and each approach has its own unique benefits for the problem drinker. Some alcoholics respond quite readily to the combination of peer support and spirituality pioneered so effectively by groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), while others find that alternative forms of treatment like cognitive behavioral therapy and support for dual diagnosis and mental health treatment are more effective.


Still others find that pharmaceutical intervention in the withdrawal process is the most effective and comfortable way to get sober and stay that way. There are a number of pharmaceuticals and prescription medications that have been used in the rehabilitation and treatment of alcoholics and alcohol abusers. Some of these medications have been extensively studied, while others rely largely on anecdotal evidence of their effectiveness in treating those with a drinking problem.

As with other forms of addiction, there is no one right approach to treating alcohol use, abuse and dependency. It is important to tailor the treatment program to the needs of the individual, and the best alcohol treatment centers work hard to do just that. Even so, some pharmaceutical medications have shown great promise at treating alcoholics and helping them maintain their sobriety for a lifetime.

At the moment there are three medications that have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of alcoholics. In addition to the three currently approved medications, there is a fourth pharmaceutical that has shown great promise but is still undergoing clinical trials.

meds used in alcoholism recovery

The first drug approved for the treatment of alcoholism is called Antabuse. Antabuse is not a new drug - it was first approved for the treatment of alcohol use and abuse more than half a century ago.

Antabuse works by interfering with the body's ability to absorb alcohol, inhibiting the production of a key enzyme in the absorption and metabolism of alcohol.


Naltrexone is also approved for the treatment of alcoholism, and it has been used effectively for many years. Naltrexone works by reducing the pleasurable sensations drinkers get from imbibing alcohol. It does this by blocking the receptors in the brain that alcohol would otherwise impact.

The third FDA approved pharmaceutical medication for the treatment of alcohol use and abuse is Campral, a drug that must be taken orally three times a day. Campral affects the chemical messaging system in the brain, reducing the symptoms of withdrawal and making quitting drinking more comfortable. Campral is often used in alcoholism treatment centers to blunt the impact of withdrawal and improve the odds of long-term recovery.

Topamax has not yet been approved by the FDA for the treatment of alcoholism, but the drug has shown some promise in that regard. Topamax is currently used as a treatment for seizure disorders, but the mechanism it uses to stop seizures is similar to the action used to reduce or eliminate the effects of long-term abstinence from alcohol in the longtime alcohol abuser.

If you would like to learn more about the drugs used to treat alcoholism and other approaches to treating alcohol abuse, just give us a call at 800-807-0951. We would be happy to discuss your specific situation and make recommendations to get your loved one the help they need.

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