Alcohol use disorder, also known as AUD, is a condition that affects millions of people in the United States. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) estimates that over 16 million adults have AUD. These individuals risk various adverse health effects, from liver disease to cancer.
While there are many approaches to treating AUD, including psychotherapy and counseling, a new approach to treatment has recently emerged: medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This approach helps people reduce alcohol consumption and prevent relapse among those dependent upon alcohol.
How does MAT work? How can it help your loved one? In this article, we’ll explore these questions, and more so you can decide whether this treatment is proper for you or someone you love.
The Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment
When people start questioning their alcohol use, it can be challenging to know where to turn. Many are afraid that they’ll have to give up the enjoyment they get from drinking. And many also fear that their life will become dull or even miserable if they stop drinking. But while the immediate effects of alcohol withdrawal are often uncomfortable, they can be managed with medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
Medication-assisted treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a treatment that uses medications to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, helping individuals stay engaged in treatment and increase the chances of long-term recovery. MAT has been shown to help individuals who have been trying to quit drinking but haven’t been able to with traditional approaches such as psychotherapy or behavioral interventions alone.
MAT involves using medications like naltrexone or disulfiram alongside counseling and other behavioral therapies for treating AUD. For example, naltrexone blocks opioid receptors in the brain and helps reduce cravings for alcohol.
MAT can help individuals stay engaged in treatment by reducing the severity of withdrawal symptoms and cravings, which can often lead to relapse. Additionally, MAT has been shown to increase the chances of long-term recovery by improving patient outcomes and reducing the risk of overdose and other alcohol-related health complications.
Research evidence supports the effectiveness of MAT for alcohol use disorder. Studies have shown that individuals who receive MAT are more likely to stay in treatment, have fewer alcohol-related problems, and are less likely to relapse than those who receive only behavioral interventions. MAT has also been found to be especially effective in combination with behavioral therapies, which can help individuals develop coping skills and address underlying issues that may contribute to their alcohol use.
While MAT can be an effective treatment option, it’s important to note that it may have potential side effects. For example, naltrexone can cause nausea, headaches, and dizziness, while disulfiram can cause skin rash, a metallic taste in the mouth, and liver damage in rare cases. However, proper monitoring and medical supervision can manage these side effects.
Different Types of Medication-Assisted Treatment
Medication-assisted treatment for alcohol use, or AUD, is a proven approach to treating addiction. Several FDA-approved medications are available, including naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram.
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids in the brain. It also effectively reduces alcohol consumption by reducing cravings and pleasure associated with drinking. Naltrexone is available in pill form or as a once-monthly injection called Vivitrol. It has been shown to reduce the risk of relapse and increase long-term abstinence.
Acamprosate is another FDA-approved medication for the treatment of alcohol use disorder. It stabilizes the chemical balance in the brain disrupted by long-term alcohol use. Acamprosate helps to reduce symptoms of withdrawal and cravings, and it can also improve mood and overall well-being. Acamprosate is available in pill form and effectively reduces the risk of relapse.
Disulfiram is a medication that causes unpleasant physical reactions when alcohol is consumed. It works by inhibiting an enzyme that is involved in the breakdown of alcohol, leading to the accumulation of a toxic substance in the body. Disulfiram is available in pill form and effectively reduces the frequency and severity of alcohol use.
Combination therapy, which involves using two or more medications, can effectively treat AUD. For example, naltrexone and acamprosate have been shown to work well together, with each medication addressing different aspects of addiction. Similarly, disulfiram and naltrexone can be combined to reduce alcohol consumption and cravings.
Personalized Treatment Plans for Alcohol Medication-Assisted Treatment
Personalized treatment plans are essential for medication-assisted treatment for alcohol use. The choice of medication should be based on individual needs and preferences, medical history and other factors. A healthcare provider can help to determine the best medication for a particular patient.
While medication is an integral part of medication-assisted treatment for alcohol use, it is not enough. Counseling and behavioral therapy are also critical components of treatment, as they address addiction’s psychological and social aspects. These therapies can help patients to develop coping skills, manage stress, and improve communication and relationships. When combined with medication, counseling and behavioral therapy can promote long-term recovery.
Medication-assisted treatment for alcohol use disorder is a promising approach to help individuals reduce their alcohol consumption and prevent relapse. MAT involves using FDA-approved medications, such as naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies.
MAT effectively reduces the severity of withdrawal symptoms and cravings, improves patient outcomes, and reduces the risk of alcohol-related health complications. Research supports MAT’s effectiveness, particularly when combined with behavioral therapies.
Individualized treatment plans are crucial in achieving success with MAT. Each person with AUD has unique needs, and healthcare providers must tailor treatment plans accordingly. At Confidant Health, we provide personalized treatment plans for individuals with AUD, considering their medical history, mental health, and social factors.
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol use disorder., seeking professional help is essential. Talk to your healthcare provider about medication-assisted treatment options and other evidence-based treatments for AUD. Remember, recovery is possible with the proper support and treatment plan. At Confidant Health, we are committed to providing comprehensive care for individuals with AUD, empowering them to live healthier and happier lives.