Anyone who has attempted to quit drinking unsuccessfully understands the powerful grip of alcohol addiction. Alcoholism is a brain disease, a result of the altered brain chemistry and neural pathways that can make it a very daunting and frustrating condition to rise above. While therapy can and does help the alcoholic learn how to break down the deeply engrained addiction behaviors that hold a person captive, it is sometimes not enough to fend off the relentless cravings for alcohol.
In recent years, drugs to treat alcoholism have become available to add additional mettle to the daily battle the recovering alcoholic faces. While recovery from alcoholism requires a comprehensive treatment approach for best outcomes, the medication-assisted treatment for this relentless disease is a welcome treatment element. These drugs are intended as adjunctive measures to further reinforce recovery, and not to be thought of as standalone treatment measures.
Why Is Alcoholism So Hard to Overcome?
Not only can drinking alcohol become addictive, but once addiction or dependency take root, alcoholism can be very difficult—although not impossible!—to overcome. Recovering from alcoholism is very unique to the individual. Some of the same factors that contributed to the addiction in the first place, such as genetics, growing up in a home where alcohol use was prevalent, a history of emotional or physical trauma or abuse, and individual biology, will be issues in recovery.
This means that for some people, beating alcoholism is very challenging. They may have to battle against a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, or mental health issues that keep them dependent on using alcohol for coping with the unpleasant symptoms. For every recovering alcoholic there are the societal pressures to drink, the television commercials and magazine ads that promote alcohol use, and entrenched habits to overcome.
Drugs To Treat Alcoholism
So far, there are three FDA-approved drugs on the market for assisting in alcohol recovery. These include:
- Disulfiram (Antabuse). Approved in 1951 as a measure to support sobriety in alcoholics, Antabuse acts as a deterrent to drinking. Once the individual is on Antabuse, if they drink they can experience highly unpleasant and even dangerous effects, such as extreme headache, nausea and vomiting, chest pain, heart palpitations, blurred vision, mental confusion, and respiratory difficulty. Knowing that these effects will occur if they drink, the idea is to deter any consideration to drink.
- Naltrexone (ReVia or Vivitrol). Naltrexone is an opiate antagonist that can block the effects of alcohol in the brain. This results in alcohol not having the usual pleasant effects, instead the individual on naltrexone may feel absolutely nothing when they drink. This in turn reduces alcohol cravings and relapse.
- Acamprosate (Campral). Campral also works to reduce alcohol cravings and relapse. Additionally, Campral can help minimize the lingering withdrawal symptoms that can persist for months, such as sleep disturbances, edginess, and depression.
These drugs may be prescribed singularly or in combination based on each individual’s unique recovery needs or issues.
Are Drugs to Treat Alcoholism Safe?
When taken under a physician’s supervision, these drugs are generally safe, however there are some side effects that should be noted. Antabuse can have serious health effects, even including heart attack, respiratory failure, coma, and death. For this reason, Antabuse is not recommended for individuals with a history of repeated relapses. Vivitrol, ReVia, and Campral can have side effects such as headache, nausea, headaches, diarrhea, and fatigue.
What Is Comprehensive Treatment for Alcoholism?
Because of the complexity of alcohol dependency, recovery from alcoholism necessitates a multi-modal approach to treatment. Going about beating alcoholism from several different angles offers the best chances at a successful recovery result. There are three primary phases of alcoholism recovery, including:
- Medical Detox. A medical detox is the first step in the recovery journey, and can be one of the biggest obstacles to initiating treatment for an alcohol use disorder. This is because of the harsh, even dangerous, withdrawal symptoms that arise during detox. For this reason, individuals are cautioned never to approach detox alone without medical supervision. During detox the detox specialists will provide the necessary medications to mitigate many of the withdrawal symptoms, and guide the individual safely through the process. In addition, the detox professionals offer important psychological support as well, as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mental confusion are common in detox and withdrawal.
- Addiction Treatment. Treatment for an alcohol use disorder can be provided in either an outpatient or residential setting. Addiction recovery involves making fundamental changes to the learned behaviors that have kept the person dependent on alcohol. By replacing distorted thoughts and self-destructive addictive behaviors with new positive, constructive thought patterns will eventually become new healthy habits. Medication-assisted treatment is provided as one of the treatment elements for individuals in addiction recovery. Other interventions include psychotherapy, group therapy, holistic therapies, acquiring stress-management skills, active planning to prevent relapse, and 12-step meetings.
- Continuing Care. An important treatment component includes the continuing care services that will support recovery after rehab is completed. Those in early recovery are very vulnerable to relapse, no matter how committed they are to sobriety. By continuing on with regular outpatient counseling and support services, as well as engaging in a recovery community that provides peer support, the individual will have a supportive backstop when issues that threaten recovery arise. Sober living housing is another excellent continuing care option during outpatient rehab and into the first few months of recovery.
Ken Seeley Communities Offers Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Palm Springs
Ken Seeley Communities and Rehab provides a full spectrum of addiction treatment services in the Palm Springs, California area. These services include professional intervention planning, detox, outpatient rehab, residential rehab, and sober living housing. One of the treatment elements offered at Ken Seeley Communities is medication-assisted treatment, including drugs to treat alcoholism such as naltrexone or Campral. For more information about the program and addiction treatment services, please contact Ken Seeley Communities today at (877) 744-0502.