Alcohol withdrawal medication

Alcohol addiction is a major issue for many people, not least because of the withdrawal symptoms that are immediately experienced when attempting to quit.

Drinking is so dangerous that it affects the everyday functions of the human body, which is a big part of the reason withdrawal symptoms are so uncomfortable.

A major part of the treatment of alcohol addiction, whether in an inpatient rehab clinic or via one of our unique home detox programmes, is managing the symptoms of this withdrawal as well as possible in order to simply get through them. This is so important because once the withdrawal stage has gone by, the chances of relapse significantly drop.

There are a few different types of detox medication for alcohol available, although they don’t actually help detox your system or stop your cravings for alcohol, they just help to calm the symptoms of withdrawal so that you can more easily manage the rest yourself.

Let’s take a look at a list some of the best alcohol detox medication:

Alcohol Detox Medication

The most commonly used drugs for managing alcohol withdrawal include:


Acamprosate is a drug that works by helping stabilize and calm specific chemical signals within the brain that are affected by alcohol withdrawal. It changes the brain’s levels of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which is a fundamental part of what makes alcoholics crave alcohol

The main aim of using Acamprosate is to help people who have already successfully quit alcohol to avoid relapse.

It is best used alongside therapy or psychosocial support since it helps to reduce cravings but is unlikely to facilitate a full recovery alone.


Disulfiram is a very different medication that works by causing an unpleasant bodily response when the patient drinks alcohol, which in turn reduces the “reward” feeling when drinking and reduces cravings.

If you take Disulfiram and then drink alcohol, you will experience:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chest pain and loss of breath
  • Dizziness

This reaction is so sensitive that it can even be caused by using products with small amounts of alcohol such as perfume, mouthwash etc.

These unpleasant reactions can be caused by drinking alcohol even up to a week after taking Disulfiram, so it’s important to stay entirely away from alcohol for at least 7 days after taking it.

Taking Disulfiram regularly over a longer period of time can completely reduce your cravings for alcohol since you are no longer getting the positive buzz an addict would usually get from drinking and instead are experiencing a horrible situation every time.


Opioids are mainly used for their hypnotic and sedative effects, but their effects in calming the Central Nervous System, combating anxiety and stress, and relaxing the muscles makes them highly effective for reducing withdrawal symptoms.

Benzos can prevent:

  • Seizures
  • Panic attacks
  • Muscle convulsions
  • Sickness and diarrhoea
  • Insomnia
  • Aggression or mood swings

Since all of these things can be side effects of alcohol withdrawal, benzodiazepines are highly recommended for alcohol-dependent people who are going through withdrawal (or are about to do so).

The most commonly used benzodiazepine for alcohol withdrawal is chlordiazepoxide, but diazepam, lorazepam, oxazepam and more can also be used in specific circumstances.

Vitamins & Supplements

While not a medication, taking nutritional supplements while going through alcohol withdrawal is a very beneficial move and will make recovery easier.

Heavy alcohol abuse uses up the body’s vitamin B stores, which can cause a deficiency which then leads to serious issues like wet brain. Considering alcohol withdrawal also often causes nausea, loss of appetite or even vomiting, a vitamin supplement can replenish your stores while also keeping you nourished at a time where you are unlikely to be eating properly.

Of course, if you can eat, this is always more important, and our list of the 10 best foods to eat when detoxing from alcohol will help.

Side Effects of Alcohol Detox Medications

All of the drugs listed here have different side effects, so be sure to discuss any potential risks with your GP or read the advice given alongside your medication.

However, it’s important to mention that benzodiazepines can be very addictive, so it’s imperative you never take them for longer than your GP recommends, or you may just end up switching your alcohol addiction for a benzo addiction.

If you are unsure about anything you’ve read here, the best thing you can do is call us on 0333 444 0315. Our friendly, experienced medical staff are waiting to give you professional advice and can prescribe the correct medication to help you manage your withdrawal symptoms, as well as any other support groups, counselling or therapy sessions that may be required.

To begin your journey to recovery and detox yourself from the comfort of your own home, book an Assessment now to learn more about what we can do for you!

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