December 6, 2021

Prescription Drugs for Alcohol Withdrawal

What to Know About Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol addiction is diagnosed when you have a pattern of drinking that has become problematic or when you feel a psychological or physical compulsion to drink. Alcohol addiction can be mild to severe and can affect anybody of all genders, ages, and backgrounds. Nobody begins drinking as a young person thinking they will become an alcoholic, but over time, either due to genetic predispositions, behavioral, social, or psychological reasons, some people begin to abuse alcohol leading to addiction and alcohol withdrawal if they try to quit.

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Defining Alcohol Abuse

The following indications define alcohol abuse:

  • Binge drinking: consuming large amounts of alcohol at one time – for men, this is five drinks in two hours, and for women, it is four drinks in two hours
  • Heavy drinking: two drinks a day, or fourteen drinks a week for men, and one drink per day or seven per week for women

Signs of Alcohol Addiction

There are many treatments for alcohol addiction, but the first step is recognizing that you need help. Some signs you may have an alcohol addiction include:

  • Craving alcohol when you don’t have access to it, or having withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop or cut back on your own
  • Having uncontrollable mood swings and irritability, changes in sleep habits and energy changes
    · Keeping stashes of alcohol around the office, home, or on your person (for example, in a flask or your purse)
  • Having an increased tolerance to alcohol, needing to drink more to get the same effect
    · Prioritizing drinking over your responsibilities, interests, and other people’s needs, with social activities beginning to revolve around when you can drink next, and planning around hangovers
  • Continuing to drink even when it begins to cause issues in your family damages your health or cause money problems
  • Being unable to stop drinking or control how much you drink once you start
  • Feeling ashamed or guilty about drinking, drinking alone or in secret, or drinking in the mornings

Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal Symptoms

It would be best if you never tried to quit alcohol independently. Even if your addiction is mild, the withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person and can surprise you with their intensity. The most common alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and lead to serious medical problems. These include:

  • Anxiety and mood swings
  • Tremors
  • Uncontrollable sweating
  • Confusion or brain fog
  • Irritability
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headache
  • Increased heart rate

Medical Detox for Alcohol Addiction

Relapse during this phase is common. At a minimum, these symptoms will be uncomfortable, and they can quickly escalate until you feel like you need a drink to get through the unbearable feelings. A professional detox facility has medications and counselors, and therapists to help you through this challenging but necessary process.

The Danger of Delirium Tremens

Another critical reason to detox in a safe, medical environment is the possibility of delirium tremens (DTs). Around five percent of patients going through alcohol withdrawal may experience the DTs. They are a dangerous set of withdrawal symptoms that can become life-threatening if not treated by medical professionals.

The symptoms of the DTs are:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • High fever
  • Increased pulse and blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Coma and even death

Risk Factors for Delirium Tremens

You may have a higher risk of developing the DTs if you:

  • have consumed large amounts of alcohol in the two weeks before withdrawal
  • are an older adult during detox
  • have a history of developing delirium tremens or having seizures during withdrawal
  • have been a regular drinker for many years
  • have suffered head trauma in the past
  • are in poor physical health, including nutrition deficiencies, dehydration, low potassium and sodium levels, brain lesions, abnormal liver function or low platelet counts
  • have mental health issues
  • have been using other drugs along with the alcohol

Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Because the DTs can come on quickly, without warning, it is never recommended to try quitting alcohol cold turkey without medical supervision. Medication assisted treatment (MAT) is the safest and most effective way to detox from alcohol is through medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT in an integrated medical detox program that combines the use of:

  • FDA-approved prescription drugs for alcohol withdrawal: The medications we can provide to you as you detox are all FDA-approved for use in alcohol detoxification treatments. Because they are given under a doctor’s care and are provided in the prescribed minimum effective dose for a short period, they will not get you high, nor will they create a new addiction. These medications are administered to help keep your body safe, provide peace of mind, and ensure you remain psychologically and physically well throughout your treatment.
  • Continued medical oversight: During detox at Muse Treatment, you will have 24-hour medical supervision to ensure you remain safe and comfortable and that you are getting enough rest. Our team of highly trained clinicians will be there for you no matter the time of day if you need anything, and our nursing staff will ensure your medications keep you comfortable.
  • Behavioral therapy: along with biological components of addiction, there are behavioral factors that you can change within yourself. By retraining your brain, you will have a much easier time resisting the urge to drink, and you will remove unhealthy patterns and habits from your lifestyle.
  • Counseling: Counselors can help you reframe your mindset and get you through when experiencing complex thoughts and emotions. Detoxing can be scary, and at Muse Treatment, we use trauma-informed methodologies to ensure you feel safe, informed, and listened to at all times during your treatment. A combined approach incorporating these treatments makes for an effective way to stop drinking safely that does not cause any unnecessary suffering.

Prescription Drugs Used to Treat Alcohol Withdrawal

Some of the medications provided during MAT may include:

  • Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines (aka “benzos”) are sedatives that are commonly used for short periods to help with alcohol withdrawal, and they are safe when used under the watch of medical professionals.
  • Phenobarbital: Phenobarbital is a long-acting barbiturate that helps safely reduce withdrawal symptoms. It can be used in patients who have liver issues. As it is an addictive substance, phenobarbital should only be used in highly structured medical detox environments.
  • Anticonvulsants: Anticonvulsants are provided to help stop seizures from occurring and are especially effective in mild to moderate cases.
  • Clonidine and beta-blockers: These medications are provided to help stop your body from going into overdrive as you detox, preventing issues like hypertension and high body temperatures from occurring.
  • Antipsychotics: Antipsychotics are a type of psychiatric medication that can be given for a short or long period, depending on your needs. They can treat symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, and agitation.
  • Relapse prevention medications: Medications like naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram may be provided after detox to help you abstain from further alcohol use in the future. These medications work by making drinking unpleasant or blocking the rewards of alcohol use while inhibiting withdrawal symptoms.

Klonopin for Alcohol Withdrawal

Klonopin is the brand name for Clonazepam, a benzodiazepine usually prescribed to treat panic disorders and some seizure disorders or help with insomnia, muscle spasms, and involuntary movement disorders. This medication can also be used to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Still, it should always be used under medical supervision. It is an addictive substance with a potential for abuse and can have dangerous interactions with other medications, and can become deadly when combined with alcohol, opiates, or other drugs.

Clonazepam for Alcohol Withdrawal

Clonazepam is used for alcohol detox because it produces a sedative effect that will help you deal with the feelings of anxiety and restlessness that come with alcohol withdrawal. It is also a medication that helps prevent the seizures that alcohol withdrawal can cause. Benzodiazepines like Clonazepam have been used to help treat the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal since the 1960s. When you drink alcohol, the amount of the GABA neurotransmitter in your brain increases, and when you quit drinking, your GABA levels fall, causing panic, seizures, and other painful or uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. If you take benzos, your GABA receptors become activated, slowing down your central nervous system to create a calming effect that provides relief from your withdrawal symptoms.

Clonazepam is only used for a short period, and its use is gradually tapered off, as benzodiazepines can cause emotional or physical dependence even when used medically. When used at our treatment center in combination with our integrated MAT detox program, followed by a comprehensive rehabilitation plan, Clonazepam can be a safe and effective tool to help you stop drinking.

Contact our team today at (800) 426-1818 to find out more about alcohol detox, MAT plans for alcohol withdrawal symptoms, or if you have any other questions about detox, rehab, or outpatient programs. We are here to help you and look forward to hearing from you.

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