Sunday - Oct 17, 2021

Medications That Can Help People Quit Drinking

Quit Drinking

There are a number of medications that are being used to help people quit drinking.  These drugs are known as acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone. The drugs are being used together with an extensive treatment plan to cure alcohol dependence.

In a recent study conducted by Dr. Daniel Jonas and his team, entitled “Pharmacotherapy for Adults with Alcohol Use Disorders in Outpatient Settings: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis”, they revealed that despite having drugs to help treat alcohol disorders, medications are still underused.   Alcohol disorders can cause early mortality and considerable number of morbidity was actually recorded.

The objective of the study is to review and analyze the benefits and potential harm of the FDA approved medications to adults, and determine why the drugs are seldom prescribed.   The study was conducted for approximately 12 weeks and two reviewers assigned random clinical trials to report the possible health outcomes.

The result of the study revealed that oral naltrexone and acamprosate were both associated with the reduction to return to alcohol drinking. There is also no significant difference between the two medications when it comes to controlling alcohol dependence.  The effectiveness of the treatment also depends on the availability of therapy, dosing frequency and the potential occurrence of unfavourable events that can trigger alcohol consumption.

The study was noteworthy considering that a little less than 1/3 who are alcohol dependents are receiving treatment and fewer than 10% are actually receiving treatment.  Support Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous for instance, uses these medications as a tool in helping people stay away from alcohol dependence.

How the Drugs Works?


Acamprosate was manufactured and launched by Forest Laboratories. In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration approved Acamprosate as the first and new treatment for alcohol dependence.  Interestingly, the drug has been around in the market for a decade but it is not widely prescribed, as the researchers noted.

Before, the medications use for alcohol use disorders worked by triggering the body to vomit when a patient drinks alcohol.  Old medications functions by preventing the intoxicating or “high” effect of alcohol consumption.  But for Acamprosate, it works in a molecular level wherein it interacts with neurotransmitters to restore the balance between neuronal inhibition and excitation that is triggered by chronic alcoholism.

Despite its effectiveness to reduce alcohol use, the drug’s manufacturer admits that the mechanism use to maintain abstinence was not fully understood.  What they know is that a significant number of persons who got drunk, experiences euphoria which is stimulated by opioid.


Naltrexone on the other hand works directly on the opioid receptors thus reducing the intoxicating or euphoric sensation. This medication is not directly use to treat alcohol dependence but it is believed to help in making patients to become more receptive to therapy. Naltrexone works in combination with behaviour therapy and other comprehensive programs to treat alcohol disorders.


According to Laaksonen et. al., 2008, Disulfiram is a weaker drug but it can still be an alternative for possible relapse and prevention of alcohol dependency in some circumstances. It can also be an effective tool as part of a comprehensive treatment for alcoholism.

Even though, Topiramate and Nalmefene are not yet FDA approved for treating alcohol dependence, researchers found out that these two medications can also help improved drinking problems.  Topiramate with brand name Topamaz is approved to prevent occurrence of seizures while Nalmefene with brand name Selincro is approved to relieve pain.  Both drugs though recognize to help patients to stop drinking are not prescribed for alcohol use disorders.

Health Implications

There is a significant health implication if alcohol abuse is prevented and patients with alcohol use disorders are given proper treatment.  People who manage not to return to alcohol dependence will help lessen the mortality and morbidity associated with alcohol abuse.  Motor vehicle accidents and injuries can also be prevented, cost of health care will be reduced and they will have a better quality of life.

The studies such as these provide strong evidence that medications are vital for the success of alcohol abuse treatment.  The outcome of the study will also encourage physicians to consider medications to help patient overcome alcohol addiction.  This will also help individuals having alcohol abuse problem to seek help so they can be given proper treatment.

Alcohol abuse is detrimental to one’s health.  It can cause organ failure particularly to the brain and the liver.  The odd of dying in alcoholism is three-fold according to the researchers. Thus, it is important for people to be aware of the ill effects of too much alcohol use. 

A person having drinking problems should ask their physician for help.  Studies shows that using this drug poses no ill effects to the patient instead it will help them reduce alcohol consumption.  Pharmacotherapy should be considered for alcohol dependent patients followed by management of their withdrawal to alcohol use.

Along these lines, medications can help patients reduce alcohol consumption and eventually deal with their addiction.   Behaviour therapy or psychological counselling and medication can help them overcome addiction.  Researchers believed that medications can be effective with psychosocial support together with an after-care treatment.