This article focuses on and discusses the varied treatments for alcoholism, including antidepressant and antipsychotic medications, detoxification and relapse medications. The author compares the pros and cons of each along with the details and specifications of each. .
Alcoholic patients who are physically dependent often have to be detoxified - helped through withdrawal to limit their suffering and protect their health. The withdrawal symptoms - tremors, nausea, dry mouth, sweating, numbness, weakness, and depression lasting a few days to a week - can be eased by substituting a safer sedative drug and gradually reducing the dose. .
The first medication to be introduced in the treatment of alcoholism was disulfiram, otherwise known as Antabuse, which deters drinking by preventing the liver from fully metabolizing alcohol. It suppresses the activity of a crucial enzyme, causing the toxic breakdown product acetaldehyde to accumulate. Anyone who takes disulfiram and takes a drink on the same day is likely to develop some unpleasant symptoms - nausea, flushing, headache, high blood pressure, and chest pain. The combination of disulfiram and alcohol can also produce cardiac symptoms and liver inflammation. That makes disulfiram unsuitable for people with serious health problems, including cirrhosis of the liver. And the risks make some physicians reluctant to prescribe the drug even to otherwise healthy alcoholic patients. Another drawback of disulfiram is that it has no effect on the desire for alcohol. It's most likely to be helpful for someone who has made a strong commitment to stop drinking and needs protection only against impulsive lapses. But most alcoholic patients will not take it regularly, and it has been falling into disuse. .
A more recent and more promising approach to relapse prevention is derived from research on the neurochemistry of alcohol. Naltrexone, also known as ReVia, was approved by the FDA in 1995 as a treatment for alcoholism after many years of use in treating heroin overdoses and heroin addiction.