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Which Medications Work Best to Help Me Stop Drinking?

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According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 14.5 million individuals, over the age of 12 years old, experience alcohol use disorder. (1) Making the decision to cease alcohol use is a tough, but brave choice. With alcohol being a risk factor in more than 200 injuries and diseases, it is understandable why one might desire to quit alcohol use altogether. (2)

Completely quitting alcohol use can lead to withdrawals and be life threatening, depending on the amount of alcohol and length of time used. Withdrawal occurs when an individual suddenly stops their alcohol use, resulting in uncomfortable side effects. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild, moderate, and severe. Mild symptoms include irritability and agitation. (3) Moderate symptoms include anxiety and tremors. (4) Severe symptoms include confusion, hallucinations, and seizures. (5) Medication assisted treatment is often a treatment option to aid in reducing the unpleasant symptoms associated with withdrawal.

If you are engaging in daily alcohol use, or are having difficulties quitting drinking, you may be experiencing alcohol use disorder. Guardian Recovery is the right place to help you begin to focus on your wellness and seek treatment for alcohol use disorder. With options such as medical detoxificationindividual therapy, and holistic treatment options, we believe in not only providing comprehensive care, but providing support. Overcoming alcohol use may feel like a daunting task, but you are not alone. Contact us today to learn more and begin the recovery process.

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FDA Approved Medications to Stop Drinking

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates food and medications to ensure that they are safe for human consumption. (6) There are currently three FDA approved medications used for the treatment of alcohol use disorder, specifically for those 18 years of age and older.

These medications include: (7)

  • Disulfiram (taken orally daily)
  • Naltrexone (can be used daily if taken orally or monthly if taken by injection)
  • Acamprosate (taken orally three times per day)

There are some medications, not FDA approved, that are used off-label for treatment of alcohol use disorder.

These medications include: (8)

  • Anticonvulsants (Topiramate, Gabapentin, Valproate)
  • Ondansetron (Zofran)
  • Baclofen (Lioresal)

Data on how these medications improve alcohol use disorder are limited, however they are still used during treatment.

Vivitrol (Naltrexone)

Vivitrol, also known as Naltrexone, is an injectable medication that is prescribed by a physician. (9) Naltrexone can be taken daily by tablet. Naltrexone can also be injected every 4 weeks, making it convenient for individuals to receive effective doses and to be compliant with treatment. Naltrexone works by blocking the receptors that provide the rewarding effects caused by consuming and craving alcohol. Naltrexone can also be used to help treat opioid use disorder, though it should not be used to treat opioid and alcohol use disorder at the same time. Naltrexone has been found to work best once alcohol use has been stopped, and the individual is abstinent from the substance. Like many medication assisted treatments, Naltrexone has the best results when it is used in conjunction with therapeutic treatments. Research has found that Naltrexone significantly decreases relapse in those who consume alcohol, while also decreasing the frequency and quantity consumed. (10) The course of Naltrexone can be for a duration of 6 months or longer.

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Antabuse (Disulfiram)

Antabuse, or Disulfiram, is a tablet form medication used jointly with therapy. (11) Antabuse works by producing unpleasant symptoms if the individual drinks alcohol. These symptoms include rapid heartbeat, nausea, a painful chest, dizziness, thirstiness, and flushed skin. (12) These side effects are uncomfortable to the point that they deter the user from continuing their alcohol use. When taking Disulfiram, it is imperative to not use products that also contain alcohol, as unpleasant reactions may occur. These products include mouthwash, perfumes, aftershave, and certain vinegars. (13) A study found that over a 12 week period, those taking Disulfiram experienced less heavy drinking and consumption of alcohol. (14) Disulfiram should be taken over 12 hours after alcohol has been ingested, and works best when supervised at a treatment facility. (15)

Campral (Acamprosate)

Campral, also known as Acamprosate, works by improving the chemical imbalance caused by alcohol use disorder. (16) Acamprosate works best following detoxification and when alcohol use has been stopped completely. Acamprosate helps maintain abstinence and prevent relapse. Campral can reduce the withdrawal symptoms of insomnia or mood disturbances caused when stopping alcohol use. (17) An advantage of taking Campral is that it does not cause damage to the liver, which can be beneficial for individuals experiencing liver disease from excessive alcohol use. Campral should be taken 5 days after stopping alcohol use, though Campral does not produce adverse side effects when taken with alcohol. The course of Campral can last up to 6 months.

Topamax (Topiramate)

Topamax, or Topiramate, is an anticonvulsant, off-label medication used to treat seizures in individuals at least 2 years of age. (18) Topamax works well with therapeutic interventions, and can decrease alcohol cravings. An advantage of Topamax is that not only does it reduce alcohol consumption, it can reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety associated with withdrawal. (19) A study found that Topamax yielded 16 weeks of abstinence following initial detoxification, making it a valuable option for alcohol use treatment. (20)

Lioresal (Baclofen)

Lioresal, also known as Baclofen, is mostly used to treat spasms in individuals with multiple sclerosis and tense muscles. (21) Studies have found that Lioresal can reduce alcohol cravings, reducing overall alcohol consumption. (22) Though some studies have found effectiveness in the use of Baclofen for alcohol use, a study reported Baclofen may make little to no difference in alcohol abstinence. Though research is conflicting, Baclofen is still used off-label, specifically in European and Australian countries. (23)

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For those seeking treatment for alcohol use disorder, understanding the different medication options can provide information and potential comfort. Each medication varies in effectiveness depending on the individual.

Our trained professional staff understands that withdrawal can be difficult. Information such as quantity and frequency of alcohol intake, duration of alcohol use, amount of time since your last drink, and information regarding other potential substances will help in understanding potential withdrawal symptoms, and the best treatment options. With our medication assisted treatment program here at Guardian Recovery, we will help determine which medication would work best for you. Alcohol use often co-occurs with other mental health diagnoses. Our dual diagnosis treatment offers care for all conditions occurring simultaneously, making Guardian Recovery a one stop facility.

Identifying that it is time to begin alcohol use treatment can be difficult. If you suspect that you or a loved one are experiencing alcohol use disorder, we can help. We can provide you with a detailed list of services, a free assessment, and a free, no obligation health insurance benefit check. Contact us today to begin your healthy living journey.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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