Alcohol Detox Medication

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A medicated alcohol detox is considered to be the safest way to withdraw from alcohol as it manages withdrawal symptoms like delirium tremens, alcohol hallucinosis and alcoholic seizures. By using medication as a substitute for alcohol under careful supervision, you can avoid the psychological and physiological side effects that are induced through withdrawal.

Alcohol has a depressive effect on your body and mind; it slows down your brain function, and alters the way that nerves transmit messages. As time goes by, your central nervous system adjusts to having alcohol and your body compensates to keep your brain more alert and your nerves communicating.

But when your level of alcohol drops your brain continues to operate in a hyper-aroused state, which is what causes withdrawal symptoms. Our detox center offers you a safe approach to the detox process by using substitute medication. Alcohol detox medication is necessary for alcohol withdrawal management. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are very dangerous and can even be life-threatening. In order to avoid them completely, you will need to take alcohol detox medication.

Our detox center offers you a safe approach to the detoxification process by using substitute medication prescribed to help with symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. The drugs we use are non-addictive and have been proven effective in managing the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. You will be able to function normally while taking these medications so that you can concentrate on your recovery.

Our approach is to provide medications that will not only help relieve symptoms of withdrawal but other medications to help you manage your alcohol cravings during your alcohol withdrawal recovery process.

These medications are used in conjunction with counseling and therapy sessions to help ease you through the process and prevent relapse once you’re discharged from treatment.

Why is Detox Important for Alcohol Addiction Treatment?

Detoxification is important for you to get started with the treatment of alcohol dependence. When you suffer from alcohol dependence, recovery can only begin once your body learns how to function without it. Without it, you risk suffering from severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which increases the risk of a relapse.

It also helps reduce the risk of developing certain health conditions. According to the CDC, over time, excessive drinking can lead to life-threatening health concerns. These include:

  • Poor memory, with a higher risk of dementia
  • Cardiovascular issues like a stroke
  • Liver disease

Not to mention, excessive alcohol consumption contributes to a high risk of experiencing a seizure. That’s because alcohol-related problems predispose you to metabolic disorders that lower your seizure threshold. Moreover, binge drinking also contributes to a higher risk of status epilepticus, which can be potentially fatal.

As alcohol detox is the first step towards recovery, it’s often followed by other methods used to treat alcohol addiction, such as counseling or group therapy. This provides you with additional support, which helps you stay sober for longer. This is because you’re in a monitored environment, away from influences that trigger you to drink.

While detox may be unpleasant, it’s certainly worth it in the long run, which is why it’s crucial to be aware of symptoms beforehand. Symptoms may include anxiety, nausea, and headaches. This is exactly why you should never attempt to detox at home and should always do so under the strict supervision of medical professionals.

Why Use Medication during Alcohol Detox

Completing an alcohol-medicated detox enables you to take control of your health and well-being. Years of research and recovery success have shown that medicAlcohol detox medication is an important part of the overall treatment plan for alcohol dependence. The most important aspect of managing alcohol detox is to prevent complications and life-threatening situations such as seizures. ations are a positive and beneficial component of recovery for alcohol use disorders. To prevent complications, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends a medical detox program. Medications help reduce the severity and duration of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. They can also help prevent relapse, which is common in those suffering from alcohol withdrawal.

Medications are often used in addition to other alcohol abuse treatment options, and some may be used for long periods of time after the patient has been discharged from the inpatient treatment center. Remember that no single treatment approach or medication is effective at treating every case of alcohol abuse, as each patient is different.

Not everyone needs to use medications to stop drinking, but if you have severe symptoms or have an underlying medical condition, your doctor may recommend them.

If you have an underlying mental health disorder, the psychological condition and the addiction will both present symptoms, which can affect your ability to function normally. Both conditions need to be treated or they will influence one another negatively.

The use of medication along with other treatment methods for the management of alcohol withdrawal can improve the chances of success in alcohol recovery programs and decrease the risk of relapse later on in life.

Benzodiazepines are frequently used to manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms as they have a calming effect on the central nervous system. Unlike many other medications, benzos can be used during the detoxification period to make symptoms more manageable. They may also help patients who have co-occurring addictions and dual diagnosis, particularly patients who suffer from anxiety and depression.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

This is a range of symptoms that occur when you suffer from alcohol abuse disorder and suddenly stop drinking. These can range from minor symptoms that occur a few hours after the last drink to more severe symptoms like delirium tremens.

Of course, the symptoms aren’t all physical, as you can experience various emotional symptoms as well.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can occur at any time between the first few hours to the last couple of days since your last drink. These include:

  • Anxiety
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Headaches

These symptoms begin with acute alcohol withdrawal and grow in intensity over the course of a few days, while some people may experience a few weeks of mild symptoms. The most severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome is referred to as delirium tremens. It can involve:

  • Withdrawal seizures
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations (tactile, auditory, visual)
  • Fever
  • Excessive confusion
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure

If you or a loved one experiences such severe symptoms, it’s important to visit the emergency department at your nearest hospital. Problems like fever, seizures, and heart troubles require urgent medical intervention.

Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Management of acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome will require you to see a medical professional. It takes place in a medical facility, where trained staff can monitor your condition and provide the necessary care and treatment for alcohol withdrawal symptoms. There are various medications used for the treatment of alcohol dependence as well, which are prescribed to help with the management of alcohol withdrawal.

But if you aren’t experiencing severe alcohol withdrawal and just need to deal with minimal symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, it’s likely that a supportive environment can help. This means having a quiet place with soft or minimal lighting to alleviate a headache or nausea. Similarly, staying hydrated and away from a large crowd of people can help you overcome minor symptoms.

Alcohol Dependence – What is Cross-Tolerance?

Statistics show that around 2.3 million adults in the US suffer from substance abuse and alcohol use disorder. This combination of substance use increases their risk of becoming cross tolerant. Cross-tolerance is a common phenomenon for people who combine illicit drugs with alcohol consumption.

If you are cross tolerant with alcohol, you may combine it with Vicodin or other drugs that affect levels of the acid GABA, which slows down the brain cells’ ability to receive or send signals from other cells.

Most commonly, cross-tolerance occurs when you take drugs with similar effects since they have an effect on similar areas of the brain. Usually, cross-tolerance takes place across the following drug classes:

  • Sedatives
  • Opioids
  • Stimulants
  • Psychedelics

Alcohol belongs to the sedative class of drugs, so they have a similar effect as sleeping pills, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines. All these drugs act upon the same brain receptors. So if you have a habit of excessive alcohol consumption, you may develop cross-tolerance with medications used to treat insomnia and anti-anxiety medications, both of which tend to dull the senses.

Another example of this is the use of alcohol with nicotine or cannabis. While most experts would claim that the cross-tolerance between nicotine and alcohol develops due to social factors, it’s also true that one drug can lead to cross-tolerance with another. This is mainly because of nicotine’s sedative effects that combine with alcohol’s depressant effects.

While cross-tolerance is important for the detoxification process, it can also be highly dangerous. So even though medications like benzodiazepines can prove helpful in reducing your heavy alcohol use habits, they can potentially lead to further cravings, which are highly likely if you aren’t properly monitored by medical staff. This explains why many people tend to abuse benzodiazepines despite it being used in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

To prevent this from happening, you should provide complete information about your drug use history. This way, you won’t end up triggering a relapse through prescription medications. After all, addiction to one substance increases the risk of developing an addiction to another.

Consequently, you may have a hard time during the initial days of your treatment of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. At such a vulnerable point, any use of an intoxicating substance can lead to a relapse, while some substances have a higher likelihood of triggering an addiction than the rest.

Alcohol Detox Medication – What Medication to Use for Withdrawal Symptoms?

If you have recently quit drinking alcohol and are experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms you are not alone. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), about 14 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Many people with AUD try to stop drinking on their own without medical help. However, for some people, quitting drinking without professional help can lead to serious medical complications and even death from severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

The severity of the alcohol withdrawal symptoms depends on several factors including how much alcohol was consumed prior to stopping and how quickly you have stopped consuming it. Using medication to manage symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome enables you to interact positively with the experience and complete your detox program effectively to treat alcohol.

Medication may be used for the treatment of alcohol withdrawal symptoms like nausea, dehydration, high blood pressure, sleep problems, electrolyte imbalances, anxiety, and depression. Vitamin B and glucose are often supplemented during medicated detox.

Medication To Manage Psychological Symptoms

Benzodiazepines help with tremors, hallucinations, and anxiety to make the detox a more comfortable and manageable process. Short-acting benzodiazepines have an average half-life of around 1 to 12 hours, while long-acting variants have a median half-life of 40 to 250 hours. As a result of their calming effect, benzodiazepines relieve insomnia as well as agitation, and muscle rigidity associated with an alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

Benzodiazepines are also used because they have a sedative effect which allows patients with severe withdrawal symptoms to get some sleep while they go through detoxification.

Patients who are resistant to benzos and those going through severe withdrawal may benefit from treatment with barbiturates. In some cases of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, medical professionals may prescribe antipsychotics to help address symptoms like excessive agitation and anxiety.

Antidepressants can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, which can occur as a result of alcohol withdrawal. These drugs improve the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, which are important for causing changes in mood and behavior.

Mood stabilizers like carbamazepine can be used during acute withdrawal syndrome where patients may experience extreme mood swings including depression, anxiety, irritability, and anger along with hallucinations or delirium tremens (DTs). Carbamazepine is also helpful in treating seizures associated with DTs during the treatment for alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Medication to Help You Stop Drinking

Some patients need medication to help manage alcohol cravings and for the treatment of alcoholism. These medications make the alcohol withdrawal process safer and more comfortable for patients. When used in this way, the alcohol abuse treatment is called "medication-assisted therapy" (MAT).


Vivitrol uses naltrexone to provide an injectable suspension with an extended-release effect. The active ingredient in Vivitrol is naltrexone hydrochloride, which blocks opioid receptors in your brain from receiving opiates like oxycodone so you don’t get high when you drink alcohol. It also helps in blocking your feelings about alcohol to reduce cravings. Because the drug does not enter your bloodstream directly, it does not produce any psychoactive (mind-altering) effects itself. Vivitrol is used together with counseling and other support services to help you stop drinking alcohol.


Naltrexone is a medication used to reduce alcohol intake or to prevent a relapse. It blocks opioid receptors and therefore blocks the effect of alcohol. Naltrexone has been shown to reduce cravings for alcohol by up to 50 percent in some people who have recently quit drinking alcohol.


Acamprosate is an FDA-approved medication that’s suitable for the treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. In fact, it’s one of the three FDA-approved medications used to treat alcoholism. It reacts with the brain’s neurotransmitter systems to reduce its dependence on alcohol.

Medications for Other Physical Symptoms

Beta-blockers are heart medications used to help with high blood pressure. Since you are prone to having high blood pressure if you are suffering from alcohol withdrawal syndrome, beta blockers can help bring you back to normal. However, it’s important to remember that it can’t be taken along with alcohol, as it has an adverse effect. Taking this medication with alcohol can cause blood pressure to spike and then fall.

Anticonvulsant medications may be used for seizure management. They can be used in conjunction with or instead of benzodiazepines. Antipsychotics may be prescribed for patients with thought disorders like schizophrenia.

In some cases, clonidine may be used to reduce the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Clonidine belongs to a group of drugs known as alpha-2 agonists or sympatholytic agents that relax muscles in the brainstem. Clonidine helps decrease blood pressure during episodes of acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

During alcohol detoxification, you tend to experience nausea. To treat such symptoms, doctors prescribe anti-nausea medication.

Patients who have been drinking heavily may require hospitalization to help them through the treatment of alcohol detox. The goal of treatment is to prevent complications that could occur due to alcohol withdrawal symptoms and allow patients to begin recovery from alcoholism.

How Medicines Help With Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal

A medicated detox will help you to get through the peak stage of alcohol withdrawal. During this phase, your symptoms are at their most intense as most of the alcohol has been eliminated from your body and you are at the greatest risk of relapse. As your body becomes more accustomed to functioning without alcohol, you will be weaned off the medication and will be ready to work through therapy.

The choice of medication depends on your specific symptoms, including how long you have been drinking and how much alcohol you drink.

Pre-existing mental health conditions

The alcohol detox process can exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions. Clients who were suffering from depression may find that withdrawal pushes them towards suicidal ideation or psychosis and clients with anxiety disorders find they get worse during withdrawal. Using medication during alcohol detox treats underlying mental health illnesses, and enables a safer and more comfortable detox that supports your mental health.

Pre-existing physiological conditions

Alcohol withdrawal can cause previously managed physiological conditions to result in medical complications. By taking your full medical history we can understand what your physiological health risks are and adopt a suitable treatment plan. It is quite common for clients with long standing alcohol use disorders to have vitamin deficiencies, high blood pressure, liver dysfunction, increased heart rate and kidney dysfunction, and these need to be managed effectively to have a safe detox and in choosing the correct medications to support it.

How Medication Is Administered

The severity of alcohol detox symptoms depends on the amount of alcohol you have been consuming, the length of time you have been consuming it for and any co-occurring physiological or psychological health disorders. Medication can be administered on a fixed schedule or according to your symptoms.

In the early stage of withdrawal, usually between six and 24-hours after your last drink, most symptoms are mild and medication is usually not required. Once you reach the peak stage, typically 24 to 48 hours after your last drink, most of the alcohol has been eliminated from your body and you are likely to experience the most intense symptoms. This is usually when you are at the highest risk of relapse and medication is needed. By the time you reach the weakening stage your symptoms should have started to improve and you can be weaned off medication. However, if delirium tremens is going to present, it is likely to be during this stage and medication will be used. By the final stage of withdrawal, five to 14 days after detox, most patients can leave the inpatient environment and move forward with a rehab program.

Is a Detox Enough to Tackle Addiction?

Going through a medicated alcohol detox is the first step on your recovery journey and it is a significant milestone to achieve. Detox breaks your physiological dependence on alcohol and puts you in a stronger and more empowered state to tackle the root cause of your addiction in a rehab program. It’s important to realize that addiction is a relapsing and complex disease and you will work through the reasons why you developed it through therapeutic processes that are designed to help you turn inwards and reflect on your life experiences.

It is not advisable to end your journey with detox because you will not yet have learnt the important coping skills and self development techniques you need to maintain long term sobriety. Relapsing after detox is potentially dangerous because your tolerance to alcohol will have dropped and in order to heal completely, you must complete a full rehab program.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What if I am addicted to my prescribed medication?

It is not uncommon for people to become dependent on two substances at the same time, so it is important that you do not mix alcohol with any other drug (including over-the-counter medicines). Therefore, each patient is assessed on the intake to determine the best way forward. If it is necessary, we may recommend switching your prescription medication or putting you on a tapering schedule to reduce your dose.

If you have a prescription medication addiction as well as an alcohol dependence, it is very important to follow a formal detox program in a medical environment to manage your risks.

Can we switch substitute medications if I don’t feel right?

Some discomfort is to be expected during an alcohol detox however, there are usually options available should the medication you are given initially not work well enough for your symptoms. One of the advantages of 24-hour monitoring is that decisions can be made quickly in your best interests and our team of detox specialists will be able to help you straight away.

What is replacement therapy?

Replacement therapy is the use of substituting other substances that mimic the effects of alcohol to trick your brain into thinking it has alcohol, without the negative consequences. Benzodiazepines are commonly used in replacement therapy as they also have a depressant effect on the brain.

The goal of replacement therapy is to lessen or eliminate symptoms while also reducing stress on vital organs caused by alcohol dependence, intoxication, and withdrawal symptoms.

Replacement therapy is usually a temporary intervention to make alcohol withdrawal safer, and the medication is then tapered off slowly until you reach the point where your withdrawal symptoms are manageable.

Replacement therapy may be used as part of an inpatient treatment program or as part of an outpatient treatment program.

Can my GP come with me so they can observe?

When you enroll in our detox program you are under the guidance and supervision of our medical team, which includes doctors, specialists and addiction professionals. Our clinical team will oversee your progress and can report any feedback to your GP, with your consent. We will request your health records from your doctor on admission so we can make informed decisions for your health and wellbeing.

What are some meds you use during detox?

Benzodiazepines can be used for the treatment of debilitating anxiety, which is a common side effect when withdrawing from alcohol use. Patients who have been abusing alcohol for a long time may benefit from the use of antidepressants to regulate their brain chemistry during and after detox. Clonidine is commonly prescribed for relief from distressing withdrawal symptoms like cramps, sweating, muscle ache and anxiety. It can also be used to manage tremors and seizures.