Common Medications for Alcohol Withdrawal
What is Detox Medication in Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment?
Detox medication is used to manage the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, which can be dangerous and even life-threatening.
The most commonly used detox medications for alcohol withdrawal are benzodiazepines, such as diazepam and lorazepam.
Other medications that may be used for alcohol withdrawal include:
- Anticonvulsants, such as carbamazepine and gabapentin, to prevent seizures
- Antipsychotics, such as haloperidol and chlorpromazine, to treat agitation and delirium
- Beta-blockers, such as propranolol to reduce heart rate and blood pressure
- Fluid and electrolyte replacement to treat dehydration and electrolyte imbalances
The type of detox medication that is used will depend on the severity of the withdrawal symptoms, the patient’s medical history, and their individual preferences. Detox medication is usually started in a hospital or inpatient setting, where the patient can be closely monitored for complications. In some cases, detox medication may be started in an outpatient setting, but this is usually only done for people with mild withdrawal symptoms.
Here are some of the things that detox medications do for alcohol withdrawal:
- Reduce anxiety and agitation
- Prevent seizures
- Treat delirium
- Reduce heart rate and blood pressure
- Prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalances
- Make the withdrawal process more comfortable and manageable
- Detox medication is an important part of alcohol withdrawal treatment, but it is not a cure for alcoholism. After detox, the patient will need to participate in counselling and other therapies to address the underlying causes of their alcohol use disorder.
What Medication is Used for Alcohol Withdrawal?
There are several medications that are commonly used to treat the symptoms experienced during alcohol withdrawal. Below, we will go through the main medications used to help with this. Find out why these medications are helpful when it comes to alcohol withdrawal and detox.
Benzodiazepines for Alcohol Withdrawal
Benzodiazepines are a class of medications that work by binding to GABA receptors which are found in the brain, and GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps calm the nervous system. Benzodiazepines can be used for treating a variety of anxiety disorders, including alcohol withdrawal.
During alcohol withdrawal, the brain’s GABA system becomes depleted. This can result in a variety of symptoms, including anxiety, agitation, seizures, and delirium tremens. Benzodiazepines help to replenish the GABA system and relieve these alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
The most used benzodiazepines for treating alcohol withdrawal are diazepam, lorazepam, and chlordiazepoxide. These medications are typically given in gradually decreasing doses over a period of several days. The dosage and duration of the treatment will depend on the severity of the withdrawal symptoms and the patient’s individual needs.
Benzodiazepines are generally safe and effective for treating alcohol withdrawal. However, they can be addictive, so they should only be used under the supervision of a doctor.
Anticonvulsants and Alcohol Withdrawal
Anticonvulsants are a class of medications that are used to treat seizures. They work by stabilising the electrical activities within the brain. Anticonvulsants can also be used to treat alcohol withdrawal, especially in people who are at high risk for seizures.
As we mentioned earlier, when someone is going through alcohol withdrawal, the brain’s GABA system becomes depleted. Anticonvulsants are similar to benzodiazepines in that they help to replenish the brain’s GABA system which can then help to relieve the symptoms of withdrawal.
The most commonly used anticonvulsants for alcohol withdrawal are carbamazepine, gabapentin, and valproic acid. Similar to benzodiazepines, these medications are usually given in gradually increasing doses, and the dosage and duration of the person’s treatment will depend on the severity of the withdrawal symptoms and what the person needs.
Anticonvulsants are less addictive than benzodiazepines and do not have the same risk of side effects. However, they can still cause side effects, such as drowsiness, dizziness, and nausea.
Barbiturates for Alcohol Withdrawal
Barbiturates are a class of medications that work by depressing the central nervous system. They are used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. Barbiturates can also be used to treat alcohol withdrawal, but they are not as commonly used as benzodiazepines.
Barbiturates also help to replenish the brain’s GABA system, which can result in the withdrawal effects being reduced.
The most commonly used barbiturates for alcohol withdrawal are phenobarbital and pentobarbital. These medications are most commonly provided to the person in gradually decreasing doses over a period of several days. The actual dose and duration of the treatment will mostly depend upon the severity of the person’s withdrawal symptoms and their personal needs.
Barbiturates are considered generally safe and effective for treating alcohol withdrawal. However, they can be addictive and have more risks than other medications used for alcohol withdrawal, such as benzodiazepines. They should only be used under the supervision of a doctor.
Symptom-Specific Medications in Alcohol Rehab
Symptom-specific medications are used to treat specific symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, such as anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. These medications are not a cure for alcoholism, but they can help to make the withdrawal process more comfortable and manageable.
Some of the most common symptom-specific medications used in alcohol rehab include:
- Medications for nausea and vomiting
The type of symptom-specific medication that is used will depend on the specific symptoms that the patient is experiencing and their individual needs. Symptom-specific medications are usually started in a hospital or inpatient setting, where the patient can be closely monitored for complications. In some cases, symptom-specific medications may be started in an outpatient setting, but this is usually only done for people with mild withdrawal symptoms.
It is important to note that symptom-specific medications are not a cure for alcoholism. They can help to make the withdrawal process more comfortable and manageable, but they do not address the underlying causes of the alcohol addiction. After the detox period, the person will need to participate in some different therapies and treatments to address the underlying causes of the alcohol use disorder.
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol withdrawal, please seek professional help at an alcohol rehab. There are many resources available to help people recover from alcoholism and live healthy, sober lives. Get in touch today for more info.