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Drug Treatments for Alcohol Abuse

Learn about the drug treatments available to treat alcoholism in this Howcast video featuring addictions specialist Paul J. Rinaldi, Ph.D.


I'm often asked what are the medical treatments that people can engage in for their alcohol problems. There are a couple of medications that can be used for people with alcohol use disorders.

One of them is called Antabuse. Antabuse is a medication that people take each day. It comes in two different doses, and what Antabuse does is it creates an adversive reaction to alcohol. So if people drink when they're taking Antabuse, they'll have a physical reaction. That can range from getting very red in the face and their body's turning red, getting very sweaty, or actually feeling nauseous, or vomiting. And that can be, again, the idea behind that is that it's so adversive that it causes people to really not want to drink. It can stay in one's system for several days, even if you stop taking it.

So if someone stops takes the medication and they may drink that next day, they may still and most likely will still have some adverse effect. Of course, just like any other medication, as it washes out of your body over time the adverse reaction will become less and less, and then go away.

Another medication that's used is called Naltrexone. Naltrexone is given and what we see in Naltrexone is that what it does, it's not any adversive reaction to Naltrexone whatsoever. What it does do with some people, not all, is it helps people with their craving of alcohol. So often what happens for people, we talk a lot about triggers that people have. So people may get triggered to drink because they walked by a liquor store, or they walked by a restaurant or bar. And then what happens is that triggers a craving where they feel sometimes in their body, you know, they want alcohol really, really badly. And that often causes them to start drinking. So often people describe taking Naltrexone and not having that craving, or if they do have that craving it's much less in magnitude than it is when they aren't taking Naltrexone.

And those are really the two major medication that we know used for people with alcohol problems.

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