Is There Such a Thing as Alcoholism Medication?
Alcohol ranks first as the most addictive substance across the globe. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism, an estimated 16.6 million American adults struggled with some form of alcohol abuse disorder in 2013.
When left untreated, alcoholism causes widespread deterioration of brain and body functions over time. People with long histories of alcoholism have an especially hard time maintaining abstinence on an ongoing basis.
In cases of moderate to severe alcohol abuse, the use of alcoholism medication greatly improves a person’s chances of maintaining long-term abstinence. While not everyone struggling with an alcohol problem will require alcoholism medication, those who do find alcoholism medication to be the only form of treatment that makes a clean and sober lifestyle possible.
When is Alcoholism Medication Needed?
When left unchecked, alcohol abuse takes on a life of its own in terms of the cycle of dependency and addiction that develops along the way. According to the University of Maryland, alcohol diminishes brain functions over time and causes widespread deterioration of cells and tissues throughout the body.
People with long histories of alcohol abuse reach a point where they can’t function in daily life without the effects of alcohol. By the time a person enters rehab, cravings and withdrawal effects make it all but impossible to follow through on treatment directives.
Under these conditions, the damage done to cell functions require some form of physical support to restore a normal brain chemical balance. Alcoholism medications work to support damaged brain cell functions, which helps to restore a normal chemical in the brain.
Prior to being put on alcoholism medication, patients undergo a fairly thorough assessment process to determine if there’s an actual need for medication. An assessment considers the following factors:
- A person’s potential for relapse
- Severity of the alcohol problem
- Mental health history
- Medical history
- Motivation for treatment
- Family and/or friend supports
- Prescription drug use history
The assessment process enables treatment providers to determine a person’s overall physical and psychological status, which ultimately determines what types of alcoholism medications will best meet his or her needs.
Alcoholism Medications Used
Alcoholism medications vary in terms of the types of effects any one drug produces. Medications commonly used in treatment include:
Gabapentin and Ondansetron work to support damaged brain cell functions and thereby relieve persistent cravings and withdrawal effects. Naltrexone and Antabuse act as preventative forms of treatment, bringing on uncomfortable physical effects in the event a person relapses.
While alcoholism medications play a vital role in helping a person stay clean and sober, alcohol’s effects also warp a person’s mindset. For this reason, medication treatment combined with psychosocial treatment interventions offer a person the best chance of a successful recovery, according to the New York State Office of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services.
Psychosocial treatment interventions used include:
- Drug education counseling
- Support group work
- Group therapy
- Individual psychotherapy
- Behavioral therapy treatment
Ultimately, anyone with a long history of alcohol abuse who’s experienced multiple relapses may well benefit alcoholism medication treatment approaches.