Josh Chandler | December 19, 2017

Medication Assisted Treatment for Alcohol: How it Works

Alcohol addiction is a serious illness. We’re sharing what you need to know about medication assisted treatment for alcohol and how it could work for someone battling alcoholism.

Did you know excessive alcohol use can lead to stroke, liver disease and cancer? This is according to the Center For Disease Control.

And this is just for those who abuse alcohol. Addiction goes one step further than just abuse and it can lead to much worse.

Let’s take a look at why you need to give medication assisted treatment for alcohol a try.

What Are The Differences Between Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction may look very similar on the surface. But there are some key differences between the two.

Alcohol Abuse

A person who abuses alcohol engages in activities such as high-risk drinking and excessive partying. This person often uses alcohol as a social lubricant to lower inhibitions or as a way to combat insecurities.

“Normal Behavior”

Alcohol abuse is common and oftentimes accepted as “normal behavior” during the college years and at social gatherings. Alcohol abuse behaviors may be seen as experimentation or “just having fun.”

In truth, alcohol abuse can become a lifestyle with long-term and short-term consequences. In addition to the risks listed above, alcohol abuse can also lead to high blood pressure, dementia, depression and anxiety.

Typically behaviors associated with alcohol abuse include:

  • Consistent excessive drinking on a weekly basis, or every other day to excess
  • Drinking to the point of intoxication with friends after work
  • Having sex while under the influence
  • Getting drunk and making a fool of yourself at a party.

Alcohol Dependent

Alcohol abusers are not addicts. They may be alcohol dependent due to the high alcohol consumption. But they don’t have the brain disease of addiction like addicts do.

Abusing alcohol is a choice for alcohol abusers. They often eventually grow out of this lifestyle and move on. However, the may also need medication assisted treatment for alcohol just like addicts.

Being an addict is not a choice. It is a complex disease that involves brain functioning and the reward center.

Alcohol Addiction

Addiction, on the other hand, is a very serious brain disease. It is a disease where a person’s brain functioning has been hijacked by a force of nature beyond their control during active addiction.

This is not to suggest that accountability is not necessary, as well. Addiction is simply a disease that needs to be addressed within its appropriate context.

Alcohol Acting on the Brain

When alcohol affects the brain of an addict, the person loses the ability to control their drinking. Alcohol accumulates in their body, and the body accommodates for this foreign substance.

As time goes on, the person builds up a tolerance for the substance. This requires them to drink more and more to achieve the same effects. The alcohol addict will continue use despite their life falling apart.

Losing Everything

The addict will lose their house, spouse, all of their money, children and still continue to drink. This should demonstrate that this is not about willpower, choice or morality. Addiction is a brain disease that is chronic and progressive if not treated.

Alcohol addiction requires education, patience, support, professional intervention and treatment for alcohol withdrawal.

Withdrawal From Alcohol

Alcohol is the only drug you can die from during withdrawals. This is because the body has grown accustomed to having a certain level of alcohol in its system. And the body compensates for the presence of the drug by adapting to its presence and losing equilibrium if it’s stopped suddenly.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms consist of:

  • Heightened anxiety
  • Racing heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Tremors/Trembling
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disruption
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Seizures

If these symptoms are not properly monitored, organ damage or even death can occur.

How Does Medication Assisted Treatment For Alcohol Work?

Medication-assisted treatment can be used to curtail the painful withdrawal symptoms. This treatment is used for stimulants, opiates and alcohol.

Medication assisted treatment for alcohol has many benefits. A few of these include a:

  • Decrease in cravings
  • Prevention of a euphoric feeling if the person attempts to drink
  • Reduction in withdrawal symptoms
  • Decline in violent crimes related to alcohol
  • Lowered prevalence of alcohol-related overdose fatalities
  • Higher likelihood of positive treatment outcomes.

Medication-assisted treatment brings together the healing powers of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies with medications. This helps give the patient the best chance of success in alcohol rehab.

Stabilization and Euphoria Interruption

Medication assisted treatment for alcohol is used to help the addict avoid the dangerous side effects of detox. People with alcohol dependence will continue use to avoid the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Disulfiram commonly known as Antabuse

This medication is designed to work specifically with alcohol causing a problem reaction when the user consumes any type of alcoholic substance. Antabuse works by changing the way your body metabolizes ethanol, a primary component of alcoholic beverages.

Antabuse has been proven effective for curbing and discouraging alcohol addiction by physiologically adjusting the way your mind and body process alcohol.

GABA Receptors

When a person has been abusing or is addicted to alcohol for a significant period of time, the GABA receptors are severely impaired. These receptors aid the proper functioning of the Central Nervous System, or CNS.

Certain medications are used to counteract the risks of this CNS-related malfunction. These include racing heart, seizures or elevated blood pressure.

Medications that act on the GABA receptor will hinder nerve dysfunction and support the body in salvaging the GABA receptors of the CNS.

The Aversion Approach

Another option for medication assisted treatment for alcohol includes a drug aversion phenomenon. This medication makes the person sick if they try to partake of alcohol while on the medication.

The Ultimate Hangover

Aversion medications for alcohol dependence impact the metabolic processes of a person’s system. These medications will stimulate hangover-type effects if the person drinks. The effects include:

  • Unsettled heartbeat
  • Stimulated gag reflex
  • Excruciating headaches

Of course, the aversion approach only works if the person is willing to continue this treatment once they’re no longer supervised.

Finding the Right Medication Assisted Treatment for Alcohol

Alcohol addiction and abuse are both serious situations. Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol are terribly painful and can even result in death.

This is why it’s important to educate yourself. Know the facts and make an informed decision on the intervention for your life or the life of a loved one. If you’re wondering if Kaiser Insurance covers alcohol drug rehab treatment, it’s essential to check and utilize any available resources.

For more information on how you can get the best treatment for alcohol dependence, check us out today.

Addiction,Alcohol Addiction,Alcohol Rehab,Mental Health,Recovery,Rehab,Relapse,Sober Living,
Josh Chandler
Josh Chandler
After growing up in Chicago and North Carolina, Josh chose to get help with substance use disorder and mental health in California because of the state's reputation for top-tier treatment. There, he found the treatment he needed to achieve more than five years of recovery. He's been in the drug and alcohol addiction rehab industry for four years and now serves as the Director of Admissions for Resurgence Behavioral Health. Josh remains passionate about the field because he understands that one phone call can alter the course of a person's life.

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