People who have become addicted to alcohol often experience withdrawal symptoms and food cravings when they try to stop drinking. This craving for alcohol is one of the reasons why the majority of those who try to stop drinking do not do so on the first try.If youIf you
There are currently only three drugs approved by the FDA for the treatment of alcoholism, one that is sometimes prescribed for off-label use and others that are currently under investigation.
Naltrexone: When Revia was marketed in pill form and Vivitrol as a once-monthly injection, it blocks the “highs” people experience from drinking alcohol in the brain. Eventually, by blocking the pleasure the drinker gets from alcohol and the reward feedback loop in the brain, naltrexone reduces cravings.If youIf you
- Campral (acamprosate) is the only drug available in the US that claims to reduce alcohol cravings. It also reduces the physical strain and emotional discomfort that people usually feel when they stop drinking. How Campral reduces alcohol cravings is not fully understood, but researchers believe it helps restore a chemical imbalance in the brain’s reward system that is altered by long-term alcohol abuse. Campral does not help anyone stop drinking. It is prescribed (usually 3 tablets a day) for those who have already stopped drinking alcohol. Because the side effects are mild and well tolerated, it is usually prescribed for up to 12 months after abstaining from alcohol.If youIf you
Antabuse (disulfiram) causes a serious side effect when someone taking the drug consumes alcohol. Instead of reducing cravings, when you drink alcohol it increases the aversion to alcohol because of these unpleasant results. These include flushing, nausea, vomiting, headache, and palpitations. Serious reactions can occur, so it can be saved for use in high-risk patients or in a high-risk situation such as a party with alcohol.If youIf you
- Topiramate is not yet approved by the FDA for the treatment of alcohol addiction. It’s an anti-epileptic drug that has shown promise in studies similar to naltrexone. Doctors can prescribe it off-label for alcohol addiction.If youIf you
Other drugs that are being studied to reduce cravings include gabapentin, baclofen, nalmefene, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and ondansetron.
Behavioral Therapy and 12-Step Programs
It should be noted that many Alcoholics Anonymous members report that their alcohol cravings were removed through the spiritual experience of doing the 12-Step Program without medication.
As stated in the How It Works section of The Big Book, “… our personal adventures before and after that make three relevant ideas clear: (a) that we were alcoholics and couldn’t manage our own lives. (B) that probably no human power could have alleviated our alcoholism. (C) That God could and would if he were sought. ”
Being an AA member and completing the 12-step program doesn’t mean you can’t also take medication to reduce your cravings. The combination of medication and participation in support groups has shown through research that it leads to better results.If youIf you
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Authority’s National Helpline (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-4357 Information about support and treatment facilities in your area.
Additional mental health resources can be found in our National Helpline Database.