Withdrawal discomfort is one of the most common concerns people with drinking problems have when it comes to alcohol detox. Which alcohol detox medications do alcohol detox centers and rehabs use? How do these medicines help relieve alcohol withdrawal symptoms and cravings? This Innovo Detox article holds the answers to these questions and more.
Alcohol Addiction is Not Your Fault–But It Is Your Responsibility
Most people with an alcohol use disorder make many attempts at controlling their drinking before they finally accept help. Alcohol addiction is not a problem of willpower or discipline. That is a common misconception. Alcoholism is a disease of the mind.
In fact, the disease model of alcoholism was endorsed by the American Medical Association all the way back in 1956. Alcoholism isn’t the fault of the person addicted to alcohol. However, it is their responsibility to seek help or accept it when it is offered. The single best action you can take for yourself as a person addicted to alcohol is to ask for and accept outside help.
Why Alcohol Detox Medications and Treatment Are a Good Idea
Alcohol addiction devastates families, steals dreams and derails lives. Addiction is an incredibly challenging foe. You’re in a struggle with your own mind essentially. There’s simply no good reason not to take all the help you can get when it comes to an addiction to alcohol or anything else.
Psychological cravings for alcohol are a challenge, but physical withdrawal symptoms from alcohol can also be very serious. This is one reason why alcohol detox medications are such an important tool in recovering from alcoholism.
Alcohol detox medications do more than help people stay more comfortable as they cease alcohol consumption. They help protect them from the sometimes fatal seizures that can occur in unmedicated withdrawal from alcohol. Quitting alcohol cold turkey simply isn’t a safe option.
If you drink enough to consider alcohol treatment, then you should never suddenly reduce or abruptly stop your drinking without medical advice.
The Impact of Alcohol and How Alcohol Detox Medications Can Help
Alcohol misuse can have detrimental effects on the body, impacting vital organs such as the liver, heart, and brain. It can lead to chronic diseases like liver cirrhosis, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive impairments. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms range from mild anxiety and fatigue to severe complications like delirium tremens, characterized by confusion, hallucinations, and seizures.
To manage these withdrawal symptoms and support the detox process, various FDA-approved alcohol detox medications, vitamins, and nutritional supplements are commonly used in a residential alcohol detox program. The supplements and medications for alcohol detox help by alleviating discomfort, reducing the chance of seizure and helping the body rebalance its biochemistry.
Alcohol Detox Medications and Supplements Explained
There are a range of medications used in a medical alcohol detox setting today. Below we described the most commonly used alcohol detox medications and their effects. The medications used will vary from facility to facility and also depend upon each individual patient’s needs.
An inpatient alcohol detox is generally the safest approach as it includes 24-hour medical supervision. This enables staff to respond to any symptoms or changes in vitals in real time. Clients who are admitted to Innovo Detox for alcohol treatment receive a thorough and careful evaluation that is used to design their individualized detox protocol.
The most common supplements and alcohol detox medications include:
Benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium, Librium):
Benzodiazepines or ‘benzos’ are often the first line of treatment for managing alcohol withdrawal symptoms. They help reduce anxiety, restlessness, and prevent seizures. Dosage varies depending on the severity of withdrawal symptoms and must be administered under medical supervision due to the risk of dependency and severe withdrawal symptoms. Side effects can include drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion.
Anticonvulsants (e.g., Carbamazepine, Gabapentin):
Anticonvulsant medications like Gabapentin are sometimes used in concert with (or instead of) benzodiazepines to manage seizures and withdrawal symptoms. They work, in part, by reducing excessive electrical activity in the brain that can lead to seizures. Side effects can include dizziness, nausea, and blurry vision.
Beta-Blockers (e.g., Atenolol, Propranolol):
Beta-blockers are more familiar as heart medicines, but they are used as alcohol detox medications as well. Beta-blockers work by blocking the effects of adrenaline, which can help manage the high blood pressure and rapid heart rate that can occur during alcohol withdrawal.
Alpha-2 Agonists (e.g., Clonidine, Dexmedetomidine):
An agonist is a chemical that activates a receptor to produce a biological response. Alpha-2 agonists work in part by reducing the release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. The result is a reduction in symptoms like high blood pressure and anxiety. They are especially useful alcohol detox medications for patients who cannot take benzodiazepines.
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that works by blocking opioid receptors in the brain. It is useful in treating alcohol addiction in part because it can reduce cravings for alcohol, much the way it works in reducing opioid cravings. By occupying the receptor site, Naltrexone can also block the euphoric effects of alcohol and other drugs.
Acamprosate works by restoring the balance between excitatory and inhibitory activity in the brain that can be disrupted by long-term alcohol use. This makes it one of the more helpful alcohol detox medications. Acamprosate is also believed to help reduce cravings for alcohol.
Vitamins and Supplements:
Chronic alcohol misuse can cause the body to deplete its stores of some essential nutrients. The lifestyle and dietary choices that often coincide with alcoholism can also make these nutritional deficiencies worse. Supplements like Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), Folic Acid, and multivitamins are often provided along with alcohol detox medications to help replenish nutrients and prevent potential complications like Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (aka ‘wet brain’).
Innovo Detox is Committed to Your Success in Recovery
Innovo Detox is committed to the success of every person we have the privilege to provide care to. Together, we will develop a treatment and recovery plan that best suits your needs.
If you have any questions about alcohol detox medications or treatment options after detox–Innovo Detox is here to help. One call to our confidential detox hotline is all it takes to get answers. You can reach us anytime at (717) 971-4566