How to quit drinking alcohol using anti craving medication

Naltrexone | Disulfiram/Antabuse | Acamprosate | Gabapentin | Baclofen | Topiramate | Kudzu

How to quit drinking alcohol using anti craving medication

Are there really medications to stop drinking alcohol?

Yes, there are, and many can be very effective

While big advances have been made in treating alcoholism (or alcohol use disorder), many people still don’t know that these options exist, or how they work.

This resource seeks to remedy that. Here you will find detailed information on how medication can be used to treat alcohol addiction, why it can help, and a comparison of some of the most common choices.

While we don’t advocate for the idea that any one solution works for everyone, it’s likely you’ll find options here that you didn’t think of before—perhaps even one that can help you change your drinking patterns for good.

Follow the links above for a complete guide to each medication option, continue reading for some commonly asked questions, or get in contact with us to learn more. For a direct comparison of the different medications, see our chart below:

Skip ahead:

Who Is Medication-Assisted Treatment For?

Which Medications Help To Stop Cravings?

Which Medication Makes You Sick When You Drink?

Are There Medications For Detox From Alcoholism?

How To Treat Alcoholism With Medication

Medication Comparison

Call Ria Health to reduce or quit drinking

First, some basic numbers, and some commonly asked questions.

The Statistics

How to quit drinking alcohol using anti craving medication

  • 6.2 percent of American adults1 suffer from alcohol use disorder
  • Only 6.7 percent of people with alcohol use disorder are likely to get treatment this year
  • Alcohol is the 3rd leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.
  • Each year, alcohol abuse costs the U.S. roughly a quarter trillion dollars

Clearly, alcohol misuse is a widespread issue 2 , and clearly not enough people are getting help.

Medication for alcoholism is underutilized, but it has a strong track record. In fact, medication assisted treatment (medication combined with other forms of therapy) often has a higher success rate than Alcoholics Anonymous and many traditional rehab programs.

With such a health crisis on our hands as a nation, we need all of the tools we can get. Broader knowledge of these options, and broader use, could make a big difference.

And on an individual level, the more choices are available, the more possible it will feel to confront and defeat a dependence on alcohol.

While no single option will work for everyone, it is likely that one of the below solutions can help you, or someone you care about.

How to quit drinking alcohol using anti craving medication

Who Is Medication-Assisted Treatment For?

The short answer is, anybody who is ready to make a change in their relationship with alcohol.

While one medication may not suit all people, there are many options for each situation. These include medicines that are safer for people with advanced liver disease, choices for people who want to cut back gradually, and options that help people reinforce abstinence.

The main factor is what kind of support system a person needs. Prescriptions for alcohol abuse tend to target physical addiction symptoms, cravings, brain chemistry, and common drinking triggers such as anxiety and insomnia. Medication can therefore solve much of the biological aspect of addiction.

However, for many people drinking is also a coping mechanism. This is why medication is especially effective when combined with therapy, or other forms of counseling/group support.

But even for those who benefit primarily from support groups and therapy, medication can boost their overall success rate—especially over the long term. No matter your situation, medication assisted treatment is worth looking into.

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Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She’s also a psychotherapist, the author of the bestselling book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do,” and the host of The Verywell Mind Podcast.

People who have become alcohol dependent often experience withdrawal symptoms and cravings when they try to stop drinking. This craving for alcohol is one of the reasons that a majority of those who try to quit drinking fail to do so on their first attempt.  

Medications

Currently, only three medications are approved by the FDA for the treatment of alcoholism, plus one that is sometimes prescribed for off-label use, and others that are being studied.

  • Naltrexone: Marketed as Revia in pill form and Vivitrol as a once-monthly injection, it works by blocking in the brain the “high” that people experience when they drink alcohol. By blocking the pleasure the drinker receives from alcohol and the reward feedback loop in the brain, naltrexone eventually reduces cravings.  
  • Campral (acamprosate) is the only medication available in the U.S. that claims to reduce alcohol craving. It also reduces the physical distress and emotional discomfort people usually experience when they quit drinking. How Campral works to reduce the craving for alcohol is not completely understood, but researchers believe that it helps restore a chemical imbalance in the brain’s reward system that is altered by long-term alcohol abuse. Campral does not help someone quit drinking. It is prescribed (usually 3 time-released pills 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 following alcohol abstinence.  
  • Antabuse (disulfiram) works by causing a severe adverse reaction when someone taking the medication consumes alcohol. Rather than reducing craving, it reinforces aversion to alcohol due to these obnoxious results when you drink alcohol. They include flushing, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and palpitations. There can be severe reactions, so it might be saved for use for high-risk patients, or when you are going into a high-risk situation such as a party where there will be alcohol.  
  • Topiramate is not yet FDA-approved for treating alcohol addiction. It is an antiepileptic medication that has shown promise in trials similar to naltrexone. Physicians may prescribe it off-label for alcohol dependence.  

Other drugs 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 members of Alcoholics Anonymous report that their cravings for alcohol were removed through the spiritual experience of working the 12 step program, without medication.

As it says in the “How It Works” section of The Big Book: “. our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas: (a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives. (b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism. (c) That God could and would if He were sought.”

Being a member of AA and working the 12-step program does not mean that you cannot also take medication to help reduce your cravings. The combination of medication and support group participation has been shown by research to produce better outcomes.  

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that in 2015, nearly three-quarters of all Americans adults reported drinking alcohol within the past year. Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the U.S.

While it is regularly consumed safely, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports that in 2016, more than 15 million adults in the U.S. struggled with an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Drinking alcohol regularly can become habit-forming. It can lead to problematic drinking and a range of other issues related to alcohol.

Medications to Curb Alcohol Use

How to quit drinking alcohol using anti craving medication

Naltrexone combats cravings while blocking the receptors in the brain that are activated by alcohol to stimulate the surge of dopamine and feelings of pleasure associated with drinking. Disulfiram creates an adverse reaction if you introduce alcohol to the system again; it, therefore, works as a deterrent to return to drinking after stopping. Acamprosate serves to regulate brain chemistry to alleviate cravings for alcohol; this makes it easier to refrain from drinking alcohol after you have stopped for a period, the journal CNS & Neurological Disorders Drug Targets explains.

Studies published in Psychiatric Times show that it is effective at lowering the number of days a person drinks heavily, and it increases the number of days they remain abstinent.

OTC Options

L-glutamine is an amino acid that the body naturally produces. Excessive amounts of alcohol can inhibit how l-glutamine is synthesized and absorbed in the body. Adding it back in while trying to stop drinking can help to regulate body chemistry. This can aid in managing cravings as well as lifting moods.

Regular bouts of heavy drinking can deplete the body of thiamine, a B-vitamin, which can result in anemia and leave a person feeling fatigued, weak, depressed, and unfocused. Taking a B-vitamin complex can aid in diminishing cravings, increasing energy and focus, and restoring the body’s natural composition.

An herbal remedy that may be useful for minimizing alcohol cravings is kudzu extract, which comes from the root of a Japanese plant. The journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence reports on studies showing that kudzu extract can help to reduce binge drinking episodes and, therefore, minimize excessive drinking.

“Prescription and OTC medications and supplements are meant to be used as adjunctive treatment methods for alcohol abuse, dependence, and addiction. These methods can help you to stop drinking, but they should be combined with therapeutic and supportive methods to sustain long-term sobriety.”

Additional Methods to Stop Drinking

To stop drinking and remain sober during recovery, you will need to address the cravings and emotional aspects of alcohol abuse and addiction as well. Therapeutic methods, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), teach relapse prevention tactics, coping mechanisms, and stress reduction tools that can help to sustain abstinence and promote healthy life choices and behaviors.

Support groups, including 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, can be extremely beneficial in providing you with a sober environment. You will be surrounded by peers who also wish to remain sober, and they can offer tips on how to do so.

An alcohol abuse treatment program is the best choice for people who want to stop drinking and remain abstinent on a long-term basis.

The Decision to Stop Drinking

Most people who drink excessively and regularly will suffer from some level of alcohol withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop drinking. Alcohol withdrawal can range from mild to severe and include various side effects such as:

Symptoms Of Alcohol Withdrawal

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular heart rate

The journal NICE Clinical Guidelines warns that about 5 percent of the time, acute alcohol withdrawal includes fever, delusions, extreme mental confusion, and seizures that can be life-threatening — a condition called delirium tremens (DTs).

Alcohol is, therefore, not a substance that is recommended to stop suddenly without professional help. Alcohol is often weaned out of the body slowly or replaced with a substitute medication during medical detox.

Medications are beneficial in managing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal as well as helping to control cravings. To stop drinking safely and effectively, therapeutic, supportive, and pharmacological methods are combined as part of a comprehensive alcohol abuse treatment program.

Medications used to treat alcohol addiction work in different ways. Disulfiram causes unpleasant reactions when combined with alcohol. Naltrexone reduces cravings for alcohol and prevents pleasurable effects caused by drinking. Acamprosate curbs cravings for alcohol.

Each drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism or alcohol use disorder, when used in combination with behavioral therapy and other support services. These three alcohol medications come in pill form, and naltrexone also comes in injectable form.

Brand-name medications that are safe and effective for treating alcoholism include:

  • Antabuse (disulfiram oral)
  • Campral (acamprosate oral)
  • Vivitrol (naltrexone injection)
  • Revia (naltrexone oral)

Other drugs, such as Topamax (topiramate) or Valium (diazepam), may be prescribed to relieve some symptoms of withdrawal. Topamax and other anticonvulsants can relieve seizures associated with alcohol withdrawal. Benzodiazepines such as Valium can treat a serious withdrawal symptom called delirium tremens, according to a guide on medications for alcohol use disorder created by the federal government.

Treatment facilities may provide medications during alcohol rehab to curb cravings and alleviate symptoms of withdrawal, which commonly occur during detox. People can take disulfiram and naltrexone after treatment and alongside continued therapy to aid alcohol recovery.

Marta Nelson of Advanced Recovery Systems explains how benzodiazepines such as Librium and Ativan can be used to relieve some withdrawal symptoms caused by alcohol cessation.

Medications to Curb Alcohol Cravings

When a person addicted to alcohol quits drinking, the brain craves the substance. Cravings can increase the risk of alcohol relapse, but many medications can reduce urges to drink.

Naltrexone

In addition to blocking the pleasurable effects caused by alcohol, naltrexone can curb cravings for the substance. A naltrexone pill is taken daily to relieve cravings, and the injectable form is taken monthly. Naltrexone is most effective in patients who have shown an ability to quit drinking before they receive the medication, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Acamprosate

Chronic alcohol use disrupts brain chemistry. Acamprosate helps normalize brain chemistry, which reduces cravings. Doctors prescribe acamprosate after a person is finished with withdrawal. The drug may not be effective if you take it while drinking alcohol, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Topiramate

Topiramate may reduce cravings for alcohol even if a patient is still drinking when he or she takes it. Numerous studies support its safety and effectiveness, according to a 2015 review published in the journal CNS Drugs. Doctors can legally prescribe the drug to reduce craving for alcohol, but the FDA has not approved it for alcoholism.

Alcohol Detox & Withdrawal Medications

Medications used while detoxing from alcohol treat symptoms of withdrawal, but they don’t prevent withdrawal. The only way to prevent alcohol withdrawal is to drink alcohol.

Some types of drug withdrawal can be prevented with medication. For example, heroin withdrawal occurs when parts of the brain called receptors don’t receive heroin. Buprenorphine is a medication that attaches to the same receptors that heroin attaches to, preventing withdrawal.

No known medication can prevent alcoholics from going into withdrawal when they don’t drink, but some medications can relieve symptoms of withdrawal to make it more comfortable.

Benzodiazepines

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. Benzos can treat seizures and delirium tremens, the most serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

We have programs designed specifically for you.

Adrenergic Medications

Adrenergic medications, such as Catapres (clonidine) and Precedex (dexmedetomidine), may relieve some symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, including elevated pulse and high blood pressure. The class of drugs is also referred to as alpha-2 agonists. They’re generally used to treat minor withdrawal symptoms, and they’re often prescribed alongside benzodiazepines.

Anticonvulsants

Anticonvulsants, or anti-seizure medications, can be used as alternatives to benzodiazepines to treat or prevent seizures caused by alcohol withdrawal. However, they are less likely to prevent delirium tremens. Anticonvulsants used during alcohol withdrawal include Tegretol (carbamazepine) and Depakene (valproic acid).

Several types of medications are used during treatment for alcoholism. Medications for alcoholism, such as disulfiram and naltrexone, aid alcohol recovery when used alongside therapy. Other medications can relieve withdrawal symptoms during detox.

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

One of the most common misconceptions around alcoholism is that it’s a choice, and that a person could simply “just stop.” While there are some cases of people who quit once and never drink again, for most individuals things are much more complicated. And one of the biggest reasons is alcohol cravings.

Cravings for alcohol can be very powerful for long term drinkers, and are among the top reasons why people relapse. Fortunately, researchers are beginning to understand why cravings happen, and what to do about them. Below, we’ll share some of the best strategies for stopping alcohol cravings, and regaining control for good.

What Are Cravings?

We often use the word “craving” casually in our culture. But the real thing is often much stronger than simply being “in the mood” for a slice of pizza or an ice cream cone (although for people with eating disorders, food cravings can be very real). A person experiencing cravings for alcohol may be able to think of nothing else, and may even experience severe stress or anxiety if they cannot drink.

Scientists are still researching how craving works 1 in the human brain, but it is already considered a major factor in the development and maintenance of addiction. It is generally defined as a strong compulsion to use a given substance, which is often very hard to resist.

What Triggers Alcohol Cravings?

For people with an addiction to alcohol, drinking is deeply connected to the reward systems 2 in their brain. Alcohol is often associated with positive experiences, and eventually with people, places, things, activities, and even times of day where drinking often happens. Any of these associations can eventually become a cue, or trigger, motivating them to pick up a drink.

For many, alcohol also plays a role in regulating emotion. When they experience stress, sadness, anxiety, irritability, or any other negative feeling, they may develop a habit of drinking to manage that feeling. As time goes on, these emotions or associations may also become strong drinking triggers 3 .

If one of these triggers arises, and a person cannot drink, they will often experience strong alcohol cravings.

What can make this especially difficult is that cravings tend to be psychological in nature, and not necessarily tied to physical addiction. This means that if a person quits drinking, and is no longer chemically dependent on alcohol, any of these triggers may still inspire a strong urge to drink. This can be particularly hard for trauma survivors, whose drinking triggers may be connected to severe psychological distress.

For this reason, it’s very important to have strategies in place for managing alcohol cravings, especially in long-term recovery. Fortunately, some effective methods have emerged to help stop alcohol cravings, including anti-craving medication, and mindfulness practices.

Medications That Can Help With Alcohol Cravings

If you’re looking for ways to stop or curb your alcohol cravings, one option is medication. A number of useful medications have been developed over the past several decades to help people with alcohol cravings, allowing them to cut back or quit drinking. These include:

  • Naltrexone – By blocking the pleasurable effects of alcohol, naltrexone reduces a person’s motivation to drink. Eventually, many people report a loss of alcohol cravings.
  • Acamprosate– Acamprosate is intended for people who want to stop drinking entirely. People typically start acamprosate on the fifth day of abstinence, and it helps to control cravings and prevent relapse.
  • Baclofen – Often used to treat back spasms, baclofen has found an additional use as a treatment for alcoholism. Some people who take it report a loss of interest in alcohol.
  • Topiramate – Similarly, topiramate is generally prescribed to treat seizures and migraines. In clinical trials, however, people have also reported fewer cravings for alcohol, especially those related to anxiety. Participants have also reported less pleasure from alcohol.
  • Gabapentin – Another emerging off-label medication, gabapentin is particularly effective for reducing cravings triggered by anxiety and insomnia.

Mindfulness Practices To Manage Alcohol Cravings

In addition to medication, a mindfulness practice 4 can be very effective in managing cravings for alcohol or any other substance. Mindfulness has its roots in ancient Buddhist practice, and is essentially a form of mental training. When used in addiction treatment, the goal of mindfulness is to become fully aware of things as they are at the present moment, and to accept them. This can be very useful in breaking mental “loops” and establishing new behavior.

What does this look like in practice? If you were having an alcohol craving, you would start by bringing your awareness to the present, and then observing the craving. You would avoid judging anything you were feeling, or trying to fight against it. You would simply let it exist, without actually following it. With time and practice, you would begin to learn that cravings eventually pass, and as a result they would become less powerful.

Essentially, mindfulness is a tool that helps you make choices about your thoughts and behavior. It teaches you to observe rather than react, strengthening your ability to “ride out” unpleasant feelings and cravings. Of course, the more often you do this the easier it becomes. Beginning a daily practice can make a big difference. This generally includes meditation, but you might also choose to set daily aspirations, or practice performing everyday activities mindfully.

Learn more about using mindfulness to overcome cravings and addiction by watching our interview with Dr. Judson Brewer 5 .

Summary: How to stop alcohol cravings

If you want to drink less alcohol or quit for good, it’s important to understand and address the issue of alcohol cravings, and know the techniques you can use to overcome them. Medications and mindfulness are excellent strategies that have been proven to greatly reduce or eliminate alcohol cravings over time. This can result in a person having greater ability to maintain moderate drinking levels or quit drinking more easily. Combining medications with mindfulness practices can help break the mental loops of triggers and cravings, and create new responses that result in lasting behavior change. These evidence-based methods are very promising—and fighting alcohol cravings or white-knuckling sobriety with willpower is no longer the only way to improve your relationship to alcohol or achieve lasting sobriety.

Online programs and support

If you are interested in changing your relationship with alcohol, and are struggling with cravings, Ria Health may be able to help. Our program includes access to anti-craving medications, as well as regular meetings with recovery coaches who can help you establish a mindfulness practice. Best of all, the whole process is affordable, and accessible from your smartphone.

Read more about how it works, or sign up for a free call today to learn more.

Naltrexone | Disulfiram/Antabuse | Acamprosate | Gabapentin | Baclofen | Topiramate | Kudzu

How to quit drinking alcohol using anti craving medication

Are there really medications to stop drinking alcohol?

Yes, there are, and many can be very effective

While big advances have been made in treating alcoholism (or alcohol use disorder), many people still don’t know that these options exist, or how they work.

This resource seeks to remedy that. Here you will find detailed information on how medication can be used to treat alcohol addiction, why it can help, and a comparison of some of the most common choices.

While we don’t advocate for the idea that any one solution works for everyone, it’s likely you’ll find options here that you didn’t think of before—perhaps even one that can help you change your drinking patterns for good.

Follow the links above for a complete guide to each medication option, continue reading for some commonly asked questions, or get in contact with us to learn more. For a direct comparison of the different medications, see our chart below:

Skip ahead:

Who Is Medication-Assisted Treatment For?

Which Medications Help To Stop Cravings?

Which Medication Makes You Sick When You Drink?

Are There Medications For Detox From Alcoholism?

How To Treat Alcoholism With Medication

Medication Comparison

Call Ria Health to reduce or quit drinking

First, some basic numbers, and some commonly asked questions.

The Statistics

How to quit drinking alcohol using anti craving medication

  • 6.2 percent of American adults1 suffer from alcohol use disorder
  • Only 6.7 percent of people with alcohol use disorder are likely to get treatment this year
  • Alcohol is the 3rd leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.
  • Each year, alcohol abuse costs the U.S. roughly a quarter trillion dollars

Clearly, alcohol misuse is a widespread issue 2 , and clearly not enough people are getting help.

Medication for alcoholism is underutilized, but it has a strong track record. In fact, medication assisted treatment (medication combined with other forms of therapy) often has a higher success rate than Alcoholics Anonymous and many traditional rehab programs.

With such a health crisis on our hands as a nation, we need all of the tools we can get. Broader knowledge of these options, and broader use, could make a big difference.

And on an individual level, the more choices are available, the more possible it will feel to confront and defeat a dependence on alcohol.

While no single option will work for everyone, it is likely that one of the below solutions can help you, or someone you care about.

How to quit drinking alcohol using anti craving medication

Who Is Medication-Assisted Treatment For?

The short answer is, anybody who is ready to make a change in their relationship with alcohol.

While one medication may not suit all people, there are many options for each situation. These include medicines that are safer for people with advanced liver disease, choices for people who want to cut back gradually, and options that help people reinforce abstinence.

The main factor is what kind of support system a person needs. Prescriptions for alcohol abuse tend to target physical addiction symptoms, cravings, brain chemistry, and common drinking triggers such as anxiety and insomnia. Medication can therefore solve much of the biological aspect of addiction.

However, for many people drinking is also a coping mechanism. This is why medication is especially effective when combined with therapy, or other forms of counseling/group support.

But even for those who benefit primarily from support groups and therapy, medication can boost their overall success rate—especially over the long term. No matter your situation, medication assisted treatment is worth looking into.

Study: Counseling Plus Monthly Shot of Naltrexone Shows Promise

April 5, 2005 — A monthly shot of the prescription drug naltrexone — plus counseling — could help reduce heavy drinking in people with alcoholism.

That’s according to a new study in the April 6 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. The study was funded by Alkermes Inc., which makes naltrexone.

Naltrexone is already used to treat alcoholism. The monthly shot might be a more convenient approach than current daily oral doses, say the researchers, some of whom are Alkermes employees.

“Alcoholism is a serious disease that destroys lives. As we learn more about how the brain is affected by alcohol, we are discovering how best to provide treatment — like adding a safe medication to counseling. A long-acting injectable, which eliminates the burden of daily pill taking, will open new doors for our patients and give hope to them and their families,” says researcher Helen Pettinati, PhD, in a news release. Pettinati is a research professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s department of psychiatry and the director or the treatment research division in the Center for the Study of Addictions.

The news comes right before National Alcohol Screening Day. On April 7, more than 5,000 sites nationwide will offer free, anonymous screenings regarding alcohol use.

National Alcohol Screening Day is sponsored by several government agencies, including the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a branch of the National Institutes of Health.

Alcoholism: A Chronic Disease

Alcoholism is the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide. In the U.S., it may contribute to more than 100,000 preventable deaths annually and is present in 4% of the adult population, the researchers, including James Garbutt, MD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Alcoholism is increasingly viewed as a chronic disease that can be affected by genetics, social, and environmental factors, they note.

Treatment options include addiction counseling, behavioral approaches, self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and medications. Learn more about alcohol abuse inpatient treatment.

“As with other chronic diseases, long-term comprehensive management strategies are necessary to achieve and sustain the benefits of alcohol dependence treatment,” the researchers write.

Continued

Naltrexone was approved by the FDA in 1994 for treating alcohol dependence. The drug had been shown to reduce drinking frequency and the likelihood that people would relapse back into heavy drinking, say the researchers.

But naltrexone hasn’t gotten widespread clinical use. That may be partly due to variations in treatment response — which could be related to the drug’s regimen, say Garbutt and colleagues.

Currently, patients take naltrexone orally every day. Sticking to a daily oral medication routine is a general problem in medicine (not just with alcoholism), write the researchers. They tried a different approach: long-acting monthly shots of naltrexone.

Testing the Shots

The six-month study included more than 600 adults with alcoholism at 24 hospitals, clinics, and Veterans’ Administration health facilities across the country.

All had been diagnosed with alcohol dependence and had had at least two heavy drinking episodes per week in the last month. That’s at least five drinks at a time for men and four or more for women.

Nearly 200 patients got a monthly injection of 380 milligrams of naltrexone. Around 200 more got 190 milligrams of naltrexone in one monthly shot. The rest received a placebo shot. Everyone also took 12 counseling sessions for alcoholism.

Heavy Drinking Down, but Alcohol Not Eliminated

The biggest improvement was seen with the higher-dose shot. In that group, heavy drinking days decreased by 25% compared with the placebo group. Those taking the lower dose of naltrexone had 17% fewer heavy drinking days than the placebo group.

The results — which were based on patients’ self-reports — were better for those who said they hadn’t had a drink for a week before the study.

Neither dose of naltrexone significantly lowered the rate of “risky drinking” or any drinking, the study shows. For people facing alcoholism, risky drinking days are defined as more than two daily drinks for men or more than one for women.

Side Effects

At least 10% of those receiving naltrexone had side effects, researchers say. The most common side effects were nausea, headache, and fatigue.

About 14% of those taking the stronger shots quit the study due to side effects. So did 7% of each of the other two groups.

All in all, the treatment was well tolerated and could be beneficial, the researchers write.

Besides the Alkermes employees, several of the scientists have consulted for or received research support from the company, according to the journal.

SOURCES: Garbutt, J. The Journal of the American Medical Association, April 2, 2006; vol 293: pp 1617-1625. News release, JAMA/Archives. National Alcohol Screening Day, “Attend A Screening.”

How to quit drinking alcohol using anti craving medicationWhen someone quits using drugs and/or alcohol, the cravings may seem unbearable in the beginning. Proper nutrition and hydration are vital for restoring health and improving the chance of long-term recovery. There is evidence that alcohol and drug cravings can be lessened with the right diet and nutrients. It has been shown that people who suffer with alcohol abuse crave alcohol when their blood sugar drops. Eating a sugary snack will give a quick fix, but eating complex carbohydrates, such as a piece of fruit or some cheese and crackers, will keep the blood sugar at a more even level. Essential amino acids are negatively affected by substance abuse. Replenishing the body with these is of utmost importance to feel better and beat cravings.

The chart below shows which amino acids in the body are affected by substance abuse.
How to quit drinking alcohol using anti craving medication

In summary, D-phenylalanine is useful for chronic pain management and is readily available in health food stores and pharmacies. L-phenylalanine is an essential amino acid that boosts neurotransmitter function in the brain. It is found in foods such as eggs, dairy products, meats, fish, and soybeans.

Tryptophan, another essential amino acid that boost brain function, is found mostly in milk, meats, eggs, yogurt, poultry, fish, peanuts, and bananas. L-tryptophan can be found as a drug/supplement in health food stores. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is also an essential amino acid helpful for its calming and anti-epileptic properties. GABA increases the alpha waves in our brain that are linked to clear thinking and good focus. Having a deficiency of GABA is linked to feeling anxious, depressed, tense, and nervous. GABA is not found in foods, but fruits and vegetables can influence how GABA works.

In addiction to replacing the above amino acids to bring the body back to a healthy balance, there are also other natural remedies to help curb cravings. B vitamins, as well as ashwaganda, kudzu, and milk thistle can all be used to reduce cravings and calm the nervous system.

Talk to your doctor or nutritionist to learn about other natural ways to reduce cravings and get the body back in balance. Drug cravings may be intensified when the body is tired and in need of an “uplift,” so keeping your body properly fed, rested, and hydrated will go a long way in your new life in recovery!

For more information about Twin Lakes Recovery Center, rehab Atlanta, please contact us anytime at (877) 958-0778. We’re here to help.

Hi there ….we need natural help when Jason comes of heroine. He comes clean then relapses . He says he wishes he won’t get the cravings one he has been through hell to get off his addiction. As this makes him use again 😢

Hi Lindy, Jason should be detoxing under the guidance of a medical professional. Please give us a call to see if we can help.