The major issues related to alcohol withdrawal, both acute and post-acute, involve the neurotransmitters GABA, glutamate, norepinephrine, and to a lesser degree dopamine and serotonin. Most alcohol withdrawal medications work either directly or indirectly on these neurotransmitter pathways, some more selectively than others.
The issues that arise in acute and post-acute alcohol withdrawal are discrete problems that require specific medications to treat each set of symptoms in turn. Additionally, there are quite a few alcohol detox medications that are used in special circumstances, such as refractory withdrawal and refractory delirium tremens. Refractory simply means that it is not responding to normal treatment methods. These medications are not used regularly, as refractory issues are by definition uncommon, but are considered first-line treatment for refractory complications.
Without withdrawal medications, the risk of serious health complications during detox increases substantially.
The acute phase of withdrawal is extremely dangerous because of the risk of seizure, heart problems, delirium, and death. Thankfully, there are a number of alcohol detox medications that effectively treat these issues, and provide a safe withdrawal experience when coupled with appropriate medical oversight.
Benzodiazepines are a very effective class of drugs used to treat both physical and neurological symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. They are the first choice for treating alcohol withdrawal and can relieve anxiety, lower risk of seizure, and reduce general nervous system hyperactivity. Some of the most commonly used benzo medications include:
While benzodiazepines are the first choice, there is a variety of other medications that may also be effective. Some of the other most commonly used alcohol withdrawal medications include:
The post-acute phase of alcohol withdrawal presents its own challenges, mainly in the realm of mental symptoms such as depression, cravings, and anxiety. Luckily, there are a variety of alcohol withdrawal medications that are commonly used to treat these symptoms as well. The most widely used include:
Due to the large numbers of people seeking treatment for alcohol use disorder, there are several promising alcohol withdrawal medications that are currently being investigated for use in the United States and Europe. Since these medications are under development, these results are inconclusive at the present, and any attempt to try these treatments should be done only under the supervision of a doctor.
These medications are some of the most well known, but there are many other options available. In addition to medications, therapeutic techniques and dietary supplements have been found helpful and effective for the treatment of alcohol withdrawal. Finding a professional alcohol detox center will give someone access to trained medical professionals who can help them discover the available medications and treatments which will be the most effective and applicable to them.
If you are seeking drug and alcohol related addiction rehab for yourself or a loved one, the sponsored hotline is a confidential and convenient solution.
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