Is there a Medication for Alcohol Detox?
Alcohol is the 2nd most abused psychotropic drug in the United States. Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is the most serious drug problem across this country and worldwide. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, medication for alcohol detox is generally only used for moderate to severe cases of alcohol withdrawal.
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Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
- AW seizures
- Alcoholic hallucinosis
- Delirium Tremens (DT)
These symptoms can increase substantially based on intake and pre-existing conditions and syndromes that the patient may suffer from. While withdrawal can subside in 5-7 days without treatment, it is based on the amount of abstinence and restraint shown by the patient. Alcoholism is an addiction. Protocol and Pharmacological treatment are based on severity of symptoms and inpatient vs. outpatient status.
Hugh Myrick, M.D. and Dr. Raymond F. Anton, M.D., claim that “Appropriate treatment of AW can relieve the patient’s discomfort, prevent the development of more serious symptoms, and forestall cumulative effects that might worsen future withdrawals.”
Pharmacological treatment generally is only involved in moderate to severe cases of Alcohol Withdrawal. Clinicians fail to agree on the optimum medications and prescribing schedules for the treatment of AW, even after investigating over 150 medicines. Medicinal treatments seem to vary per the country you live in and also per the severity of the AW symptoms being treated.
Types of Medication for Alcohol Detox
Benzodiazepines(BZs): (ex: Valium, Serax)
- Favored in the U.S.
- Prescribed widely for treatment of anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and AW
Although BZs are prescribed to help with AW almost across the board in the U.S., it has been suggested that this is due to a lack of studies conducted in the U.S. for the use of other types of drugs to treat Alcohol Withdrawal. They do pose a risk of aggravating other accompanying conditions.
BZs negative side effects:
- Incoordination (ataxia)
These medications have shown to be of help when they accompany a BZ prescription/dosage schedule, but not alone. They seem to only be prescribed as an adjunct when there are other complications due to pre-existing conditions. A combination of BZs and Andrenergic Medications may be considered protocol for treating Delirium Tremens (DT). DT is the most intense and serious syndrome associated with Alcohol Withdrawal.
Anti-seizure Medications: (ex: Tegretol, Depakene)
- Favored in Europe
- Less sedating
- No abuse potential
- Prescribed to treat anxiety and mood disorders
- Negative side effects listed not listed
Alcohol Withdrawal is serious business no matter how mild or severe. There seem to be many avenues of help. As always, early diagnosis and seeking treatment are key in the recovery process.