Medication for Alcoholism Recovery

Effective alcoholism recovery treatment most often requires an intensive, multi-faceted approach that addresses all aspects of the individual -- mind, body and spirit.

Treatment may involve one or more of the following: intervention, residential treatment facility, out-patient program, psychosocial therapy, and peer support groups.

In addition, medication has played an increasing role in recent years and is sometimes prescribed to complement and propel other treatment initiatives.

While taking medicine will not help overcome alcoholism (or any addiction), three drugs have shown promise in supporting overall treatment efforts and have received approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


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Antabuse, or disulfiram as it is also known, serves as an alcohol deterrent. Individuals on the drug experience severe reactions such as facial flushing, throbbing headache, nausea, vomiting, heightened blood pressure and increased heart rate when consuming alcohol. Even tiny amounts of alcohol can cause unpleasant effects.


Naltrexone is sold under the brand names ReVia and Depade. An extended-release form of naltrexone is marketed under the name Vivitrol. (Vivitrol is taken by injection rather than by mouth.)

The drug reduces the urge to drink by blocking neurotransmitters in the brain that produce the "high" people experience when they consume alcohol. This medication is often used with the sinclair method of alcoholism treatment, which claims a 78% success rate.


Campral, the marketed name for acamprosate, helps by reducing the physical distress and emotional discomfort (i.e. sweating, anxiety, sleep disturbances) people usually experience when they stop drinking.

Medication for Alcoholism Recovery

These medications can only be prescribed to people who have already stopped drinking and have undergone or are receiving therapy. They are of no use if individuals are still consuming alcohol; there is no silver bullet to help someone stop drinking.

The effectiveness of these drugs is directly tied to the alcoholic’s motivation to stay sober and get well. Therefore, the benefits vary by individual and can only support recovery goals when used in combination with therapy and support group engagement.

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Related Information

Drugs For Alcoholism - Additional information about drug treatment for alcoholism. To make a full recovery, therapy and/or support groups are necessary. Follow the links to learn more about alcoholism medical treatment.

Kudzu for Alcoholism - Find out why this ancient chinese remedy has shown promise as a viable herbal treatment to help curb alcohol cravings.


U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “Medications Can Aid Recovery from Alcoholism,” by Paula Kurtzweil. 

Mayo Clinic

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