Medications for Substance Use Disorders

FDA has approved several different medications to treat alcohol use disorders (AUD) and opioid use disorders (OUD). These medications relieve the withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings that cause chemical imbalances in the body. Medications used are evidence-based treatment options and do not just substitute one drug for another.

This article explores medications for AUD in further detail, including how they can help someone with AUD and a list of medications. It also discusses the benefits and risks of these medications, other treatments, when to speak with a doctor about drinking, and resources for people with AUD. Some medications help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, while others may improve mood and cognitive function. A doctor works with a person to determine which medications are right for them based on their individual needs. The diagnosis is made when drinking interferes with your life or affects your health.

Effects of Alcohol Addiction on Your Health

In addition, the relapse rate was shown to be lower in the patients receiving topiramate, suggesting that a low dose of topiramate was effective in reducing craving, symptoms of depression and anxiety (Paparrigopoulos et al., 2011). In contrast, in a randomized, double-blind clinical trial, ninety-six veterans with PTSD and comorbid alcohol dependence received prazosin (16 mg) for 13 weeks. Chronic alcoholism has become a major health issue both in developed Step 1 of AA: Admitting You’re Powerless Over Alcohol and developing countries with heavy social, medical and economic burdens. Despite the available pharmacotherapies for the treatment of AUDs, there are no such medication and treatment methods that give a hundred percent cure rate. Many of these drugs and medicines are known to exhibit some deleterious side effects or are only effective in some conditions. The currently used FDA approved drugs include Disulfiram, Naltrexone, and Acamprosate.

medications for alcoholism

Venlafaxine, marketed as Effexor, Effexor XR, Lanvexin, Viepax and Trevilor, is used as an antidepressant medication. This medicine belongs to an SNRI group of inhibitors (Muth et al., 1986; Yardley et al., 1990; Bymaster et al., 2001) that increase the concentrations of the neurotransmitters serotonin and NE in the body and the brain. Currently it is used for the treatment of MDD, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder and social phobia (Joint Formulary Committee, 2013; Rossi, 2013). Its metabolite (O-desmethylvenlafaxine) also acts as another antidepressant drug called desvenlafaxine and sold under the brand name Pristiq (Pae, 2011).

Alcohol Detox Medications

Part of recovering from alcohol use disorder is changing old behaviors and routines. This medication may be able to help those who stop drinking alcohol and need help with cognitive function. Long-term alcohol misuse damages the brain’s ability to function properly. I felt both less anxiety and less pain because I knew relief was available if needed.

  • Among them, prazosin and doxazosin are known medications for the treatment of high blood pressure.
  • It is generally used for the treatment of nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy and radiation therapy in many cancer patients.
  • It may be that for some people, pain itself makes opioids less euphoric, for reasons that aren’t fully understood.
  • For many, continued follow up with a treatment provider is critical to overcoming problem drinking.

The medication can help you have fewer days when you drink heavily as well as drink less overall. Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs used to treat anxiety, insomnia and seizures. The class of drugs, which includes Valium, Xanax (alprazolam) and Klonopin (clonazepam), is often considered the first approach to alcohol withdrawal treatment.


As a behavioral neurogeneticist leading a team investigating the molecular mechanisms of addiction, I combine neuroscience with genetics to understand how alcohol and drugs influence the brain. In the past decade, I have seen changes in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of addiction, largely due to a better understanding of how genes are dynamically regulated in the brain. New ways of thinking about how addictions form have the potential to change how we approach treatment. Many people with alcohol use disorder hesitate to get treatment because they don’t recognize that they have a problem. An intervention from loved ones can help some people recognize and accept that they need professional help. If you’re concerned about someone who drinks too much, ask a professional experienced in alcohol treatment for advice on how to approach that person.

So far, there has been no change in the ability of the three patients to do their daily activities since the ultrasound treatments ended in July, Rezai’s team said. Patient brain scans also show a clear reduction in beta amyloid proteins; the beta-amyloid plaque targeted with ultrasound were reduced 50% more than areas targeted by infusion alone. The patients in his trial put on a specialized helmet and lie down on an MRI table. When hit with ultrasound energy, the bubbles vibrate and pry open the blood-brain barrier, temporarily allowing the therapeutic drugs to quickly get inside the brain. Take our free, 5-minute alcohol use self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with alcohol misuse.

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