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What Medication Is Used to Treat Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a disease that can control a person to the extent of changing their mental and physical appearance, as well as impair their ability to work or function socially. In Canada, thousands of people are struggling with this disease. Some begin their struggle at a very early age.

It is estimated that 17% of the alcoholics in Canada are underage drinkers. As people continue to drink in excessive amounts, they cannot control their actions. An alcoholic can have drastic mood swings that range from severely depressed to great enthusiasm to intense and violent anger. Because of these changes in personality, the ability to hold a job, or stay in any form of relationship, is severely hindered or impossible.

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The Canadian government has continually sought ways to help curb the onslaught of alcoholism and the economic problems that come with it. As the treatment progresses and counselors realize the need for a multi-pronged approach to treating alcoholism, new methods are being introduced with some success. A switch from short-term treatment to long-term in house alcohol treatment has seen some success in the last few years. Another part of a multifaceted treatment approach is through the use of different medications.

Medication is often used in conjunction with other treatment avenues, but not as a standalone method for successful treatment. There are several types of medicines available that counselors and physicians can prescribe. However, three have shown remarkable progress in treating the disease of alcoholism.

The first of these is called Disulfiram. This medication is often prescribed as a deterrent to alcohol. When someone is prescribed this drug, they will experience intense reactions such as nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, headaches, and increased heart rate. Disulfiram is usually prescribed to someone who is in the middle stages of alcoholism and does not have serious medical conditions.

The next type of medication commonly prescribed for treating alcoholism is called Naltrexone. This medication is also known as ReVia or Depade. This medication does not react to the alcohol but works within the neurotransmitters in the brain. Naltrexone works to reduce the feeling of being drunk by blocking these neurotransmitters when alcohol is being consumed.

For those who also have severe medical conditions brought on by prolonged abuse of alcohol, there is another type of medication available to them. This medication, known as Acamprosate, or Campral, works to help the alcoholic during the detox time. Because of the medical conditions such as liver damage, or heart problems, medicines that react with the alcohol will not help. What is needed is something to help the person get over the symptoms of withdrawals. Campral works to reduce the stress of detox and help to ease the mind.

It must be noted that these medications, while are very important to treatment, are not a treatment in themselves. They are prescribed as a supplement to treatment in order to help a person better handle the detox process, or staying away from alcohol altogether. The success of these drugs is also directly related to the motivation of the individual themselves and regaining life skills in order to live a drug-free life. The most successful alcohol treatment does not use medication except to detox the person safely.

Reference: pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh23-2/099-106.pdf