Can Medication Help Curb Alcohol Cravings?

Can Medication Help Curb Alcohol Cravings?Cravings eventually come to define the life of an alcoholic. Once an addiction to alcohol has been established, those cravings are relentless. At first it may be a craving for just 2 to 3 drinks at night. As the alcoholic’s tolerance grows over time, however, he or she will need more and more to feel the desired effects. Eventually, the alcoholic will be unable to control his or her drinking even as it destroys everything he or she loves about life. The alcoholic’s need for alcohol will dominate his or her personality. It will ruin relationships. Alcohol cravings drive the alcoholic’s behaviors far more than his or her own choices do.

What Is Alcoholism?

Alcohol dependence disorder (alcoholism) is a disease with both physical and psychological components. Alcohol causes the brain to release high levels of the “feel-good” chemical dopamine into the bloodstream. The body stops producing its own naturally occurring dopamine, and the alcoholic then needs a regular supply of alcohol to feel normal. Alcohol also binds to special chemical receptors in the brain that send and receive signals related to emotional pain and distress. The brain recognizes this relief and then craves it in a way that is much more powerful than conscious thought.

The following symptoms are typical of alcoholism:

  • Regularly needing alcohol in quantities greater than 2 drinks per day for men or 1 drink per day for women
  • Continuing to drink even as the negative effects increase
  • Being defensive or denying the problem when confronted about alcohol use
  • Experiencing difficulty stopping drinking once started
  • Regularly drinking to the point of intoxication
  • Constantly thinking about or craving alcohol when it is not being consumed

The symptoms of alcoholism often develop slowly. The alcoholic is often the last to realize that he or she has a problem. The psychological power of the disease blinds the individual to his or her symptoms.

Treating Alcoholism Effectively

Alcoholism recovery requires both psychological and physical rehabilitation. First, the addict must quit drinking and allow his or her body to eliminate the alcohol. This often involves painful withdrawal symptoms that can last from several days to more than a week. Once the brain re-establishes its natural chemical balance, the physical aspects of the disease have been defeated. The psychological characteristics of alcoholism are much more difficult to conquer. Reprogramming the brain back to its pre-addiction patterns involves a combination of counseling, new skill development, positive reinforcement and other rehabilitative techniques.

In recent years, addiction recovery doctors have developed several medications to aid in the recovery process. These drugs do not correct alcoholism entirely, but they do reduce cravings by changing the way alcohol functions in the brain. In addition to several herbal treatments that promise to aid in the correction of chemical imbalances that undermine recovery, the following medications are often used to help the recovering alcoholic manage cravings:

  • Antabuse causes a severe onset of withdrawal-like symptoms if the person drinks.
  • Naltrexone blocks the euphoric high offered by alcohol, thereby discouraging drinking.
  • Acamprozate may actually reduce cravings altogether.

Again, these medical treatments are not designed to treat alcoholism by themselves, but they may prove helpful as part of a comprehensive alcohol addiction recovery program that includes psychological rehabilitation.

Alcohol Abuse Help

If you would like more information about how medical treatment may help to reduce your cravings for alcohol, please call our toll-free helpline today. We can help you find the treatment plan that will give you the best opportunity for recovery success.