Alcohol abuse leads to chemical changes in your brain and body causing a mental and physical dependency on alcohol. During the detoxification phase of your recovery, as your body starts to rid itself of the toxins from alcohol, your body’s reliance or dependency on the chemicals produced by alcohol in your brain can produce withdrawal symptoms that can range from moderate to severe and painful.
Choosing to cease the use of alcohol can lead to improvements in your health, both in the short & long term, but the detox process can appear daunting when you consider the withdrawal symptoms you may experience.
Thankfully there are approved medications that can be prescribed to assist your detox. Our home-based service can prescribe and post medications to you to help ease the discomfort of withdrawal as well as ensure you are detoxing in the safest way possible.
When is Alcohol Detox Medication Needed?
A medically assisted or supervised detox is advised due to the withdrawal symptoms and what could be a severe reaction to quitting alcohol.
Starting from at least 6hrs after your last drink you will start to experience withdrawal symptoms that may become increasingly severe over the 1st week:
- hand tremors
Depending on the severity of your alcohol use disorder, you may experience acute alcohol withdrawal or Delirium Tremens:
Because each person’s journey is unique, you may experience all or only some of the symptoms detailed above. You may also experience PAWS – Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome – where symptoms including anxiety, low energy, trouble sleeping, and delayed reflexes, and can last from several months to a year. These persistent symptoms are generally minor and can be assisted with medication.
Though there are more than 150 medications that have been used in the treatment of withdrawal from alcohol, medical practice is divided regarding the best approach to medically treat alcohol dependence, the most common types of medications are:
Benzodiazepines to Treat Alcohol Withdrawal
Benzodiazepines are used to treat panic or anxiety disorders as well as to control certain seizures due to their sedative effects. The seizures experienced during alcohol withdrawal can be significantly reduced with Benzodiazepines.
There are specifically FDA-approved benzodiazepines in both the long-acting and shorter-acting class:
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium).
- Clorazepate (Tranxene).
- Diazepam (Valium).
- Oxazepam (Serax).
During severe alcohol withdrawal, your physician may also prescribe anticonvulsant medication instead of Benzodiazepines or even in addition to Benzodiazepines to help manage acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome or Delirium Tremens.
The FDA-approved list includes
- Carbamazepine (Tegretol)
- Gabapentin (Neurontin)
- Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal)
- Valproic Acid (Depakene)
Even though the use of anticonvulsants is less addictive than Benzodiazepines but doesn’t necessarily prevent Delirium Tremens & grand-mal seizures.
Although not as commonly used, Barbiturates may be used in benzodiazepine-resistant cases, their use has shown promise in the emergency department and ICU for extreme cases of withdrawal. However, their use is still being studied. (https://www.alcohol.org/medication/)
Medication to Treat Alcohol Dependence
Once your detox has been completed and as part of your recovery programme, there are also FDA-approved medications to ease or suppress the cravings you may experience:
The use of Disulfiram as part of a maintenance programme is used to discourage drinking alcohol, the adverse reactions (anxiety, headache, flushing of the face, sweating, blurred vision, nausea, and vomiting) induced by the intake of alcohol during use of Disulfiram can last up to an hour.
Naltrexone (Vivitrol, Revia)
Craving of alcohol, urge, or desire to drink is believed to be reduced when Naltrexone is included in the maintenance part of recovery, although initially used to treat opiate use disorder, the FDA approved its use in alcohol abuse recovery due to the positive results reported by patients.
The risk of liver disease unfortunately means this medication is contraindicated in patients that have pre-existing liver disease or hepatitis.
Acamprosate is not metabolized by the liver and does not adversely interact with alcohol, as such it can be used if you have liver disease or hepatitis.
The efficacy of Acamprosate is best felt when taken in conjunction with counselling, support, and other holistic treatments, this is due to the multifaceted treatment approaches to restoring the balance in your central nervous system between the excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters, respectively.
There are other medications may also be used alternatively but their full effectiveness may not have been studied enough this include but are not limited to:
- Muscle Relaxants
How to Request Medical Assisted Detox
A complete assessment must be done to assess the risk you may have of experiencing moderate to severe and even acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms
Through your GP
Support may be limited through your GP, who may refer you to a treatment centre based on your assessment. Although able to prescribe the medications listed above, your GP is not going to be able to be as available to you through your home detox.
Home Detox Service
An at-home detox through our service includes an assessment, telephonic support during detox with you and your support buddy, also included are any medications required to assist you safely with your detoxification can be posted to you for convenience. As well as the personal service you receive, the cost is more affordable than in-patient residential care.
Choosing to receive your treatment in a residential treatment centre will ensure that you are supervised 24/7 by a medical professional who will monitor your withdrawal symptoms and administer medication as needed. The cost of residential rehab is more than an at-home detox programme through us.