What Is Alcohol Detox Medication?

May 19, 2022

Getting sober isn’t easy, but there are things that can help. One worry some people have is the uncomfortable physical symptoms of detoxing. 

Alcohol detox medication can help you feel better while going through withdrawals. These are FDA-approved medications to help you or your loved one detox safely and effectively without feeling symptoms as strongly as you would otherwise. When you enter a rehab program, any potential medication use will be a part of the intake and review process. 

A physician will review your medical history and current situation and discuss appropriate medication use (if any) to help treat your symptoms. Therapists will also address any mental health issues. This is all part of a carefully managed process to get you through detox, withdrawal, and on the way to recovery. 

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Why Use Medication?

When someone is severely addicted to alcohol and decides to stop drinking, the abrupt change can be harmful to their health. When this happens, they may experience the following symptoms: 

  • Seizures
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations
  • Extremely high or low blood pressure
  • Fluctuations in body temperature
  • Erratic pulse


Appropriate medical supervision is vital. For example, in an unsupervised setting, seizures can lead to heart failure. Unmonitored hallucinations and delusions can push unstable individuals into situations where they hurt themselves. 

Fortunately, this can all be avoided with the help of qualified physicians, nurses, and alcohol detox medication, which is usually needed in the first few weeks of withdrawal or immediately afterward. 

Pros and Cons of Alcohol Detox Medications

The following alcohol detox medications work differently for different people. Depending on your situation, these can be a great help or maybe you’d be better served going in a different direction. Please consult your doctor to find what works well for you.

Benzodiazepines: These popular sedatives are commonly used for detox purposes. Doctors regularly prescribe diazepam and chlordiazepoxide. They’re taken every 1-2 hours or whenever symptoms erupt. 

  • Pro: Significantly reduces the risk of seizures 
  • Con: Are addictive and must be carefully monitored by a doctor, especially when the patient stops using them


Naltrexone: Doctors started using these drugs, like Vivitrol and ReVia, to treat opioid addicts. However, they help reduce the urge to drink among alcoholics. 

  • Pro: Helps addicts get and stay abstinent from alcohol
  • Con: May cause liver damage when taken in large doses


Anticonvulsants: When someone suffers from mild or moderate seizures, anticonvulsants such as carbamazepine can be effective. 

  • Pro: Aren’t too addictive, making them safer for alcoholics 
  • Con: Not as effective for severe withdrawals or seizures 


Clonidine and beta-blockers: These drugs help patients suffering from hypertension and high body temperature. 

  • Pro: Can be used with benzodiazepines to address a host of symptoms 
  • Con: Ineffective if someone is dealing with seizures or hallucinations 

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Antipsychotics: Antipsychotic medications help with multiple psychiatric issues and reduce symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations. 

  • Pro: Effectively manage withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and irritation 
  • Con: Make patients more susceptible to seizures


Baclofen: This is a muscle relaxant and can quickly ease symptoms associated with acute alcohol withdrawal, especially for moderate drinkers. 

  • Pro: Works quickly when other options are ineffective 
  • Con: Inconclusive if it works as effectively with more severe symptoms or drinkers 


Acamprosate: This helps people avoid alcohol after the immediate withdrawals subside.

  • Pro: Rewires the brain to build up normal functioning and blocks the positive effects of drinking 
  • Con: Can only be used after the detox period is over


Vivitrol: This drug includes naltrexone in a slow-acting injection. It grabs hold of endorphin receptors so the person doesn’t feel the full effects of alcohol. 

  • Pro: This drug helps addicts think less about drinking or develop cravings for it
  • Con: Some side effects include nausea, vomiting, and high blood pressure


Supervised Detox Is Important

Alcohol detox medication used properly and under a doctor’s supervision, helps people feel less anxiety and more comfort during alcohol withdrawal. These drugs have been tested and proven to make the struggles of detox more manageable. 

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If you are looking for a solution for yourself or a loved one, find out more about alcohol detox at Buena Vista today.