The FDA has approved three medications for treating alcohol addiction.1  

Naltrexone blocks cravings, Acamprosate reduces the symptoms of withdrawal, and Disulfiram acts as a deterrent by stopping the breakdown of alcohol.

Naltrexone

Brand Names: Vivitrol® (extended-release injection), ReVia®, and Depade® (oral tablet).

Administered: Extended-release injection every 4 weeks or oral tablet, taken once daily.

How It Works: Naltrexone works by reducing your urge to drink alcohol. This may help you drink less or stop drinking completely.

Clinical Benefits: Research has confirmed that naltrexone can reduce alcohol cravings and decrease relapse rates when used in combination with psychosocial therapy.2

Potentially Severe Side Effects: Call your doctor at once if you have severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mood changes, confusion, hallucinations (seeing or hearing things), depression, thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself, or liver problems (upper stomach pain, itching, tired, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, yellowing of the skin or eyes).

Common Side Effects: Nausea, headache, dizziness, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia

Availability: By prescription

Acamprosate

Brand Name: Campral®, Campral EC

Administered: Delayed-release oral tablet, taken three times per day

How It Works: Acamprosate works by normalizing alcohol-related changes in brain activity which reduces withdrawal symptoms.  When used with behavior modification and counseling support, it may help you to not drink.

Clinical Benefits: A review of multiple European studies found that Acamprostate is moderately effective in maintaining alcohol abstinence, doubling the length of time before relapse when compared with a placebo.3

Potentially Severe Side Effects: Call your doctor at once if you have severe anxiety or depression, mood or behavior changes, thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself, swelling in your hands or feet, or pounding heartbeats or fluttering in your chest.

Common Side Effects: Diarrhea, dizziness, flatulence, itchiness, loss of appetite, nausea, insomnia, weakness

Availability: By prescription

 

Disulfiram

Brand Name: Antabuse®

Administered: Oral tablet, once daily

How It Works: Disulfiram stops the enzymes (i.e., chemicals in your body) that break down alcohol, resulting in unpleasant effects that could include nausea, headache, high-blood pressure, and sweatiness.  Even small amounts of alcohol from products like mouthwash or cough medicine may produce unpleasant symptoms when taking Antabuse.

Clinical Benefits: A recent review of over 60 years of studies involving disulfiram concluded that the drug does have a positive effect on alcohol abstinence, including preventing relapse.4

Potentially Severe Side Effects: Call your doctor at once if you have eye pain or sudden loss of vision, confusion, unusual thoughts or behavior, or liver problems

Common Side Effects: Drowsiness, headache, impotence, acne, metallic taste

Availability: By prescription

1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "What FDA-Approved Medications Are Available?" http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/treatment/treatment.htm#chapter04 
2. O'Malley et al., 1992;Volpicelli, Alterman, Hayashida, & O'Brien, 1992Volpicelli, Watson, King, Sherman, & O'Brien, 1995
3. Bouza, Magro, Muñoz, & Amate, 2004
4. Open Journal of Psychiatry, 2014, 4, 43-52 OJPsych http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojpsych.2014.41007 Published Online January 2014 http://www.scirp.org/journal/ojpsych/
All Drug and Side Effect Information Provided By:

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http://www.webmd.com/drugs/index-drugs.aspx?show=drugs
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