Can tablets help you to stop drinking alcohol? Look here for the various approved pharmaceutical medication to stop drinking alcohol.
Before we go any further, it is important to understand that medication is only one aspect of successful addiction treatment. Pills can be helpful in the initial early stages of weaning off of alcohol. However, they are not the answer to overcoming an alcohol problem.
When thinking about giving up drinking alcohol, medication should be combined with professional therapy and support. There is no quick fix for an alcohol use disorder. Recovery from alcoholism is an ongoing process of growth, learning and change.
Nevertheless, medication can be an important element for anyone that suffers from alcohol dependence and requires detox in the first instance. Certain medications help reduce alcohol cravings, which are commonly experienced during the early and vulnerable days of recovery.
If you need pills to stop drinking, it is best to get all the information your can before you take the next vital step.
Who needs tablets to stop drinking alcohol?
If you or a loved one have a physical dependence on alcohol, medical alcohol detox can help you to safely and effectively stop drinking.
Alcohol addiction can feel hopeless. You may feel like you will never get sober. Perhaps you have made many resolutions to quit drinking. Yet you find yourself turning back to alcohol just to stop the horrendous (and often dangerous) withdrawal symptoms.
Many people who suffer from alcohol addiction also find that they regularly crave alcohol during recovery. This is because in order to effectively overcome alcoholism the brain needs to undergo intensive healing. Stopping alcohol does little to change the mindset of a person afflicted with addiction. It merely presses the pause button.
In both of these instances, certain medications can help you to stop drinking, providing you access to the right help and support. You should not try to buy alcohol detox pills from the internet or from the street. Doing this can only add another complex layer to an already chronic condition.
The extent of problem drinking in the UK
If you suffer from an alcohol problem, you probably feel very alone in your predicament. However, we can assure you you are not.
Alcohol misuse is currently the biggest risk factor for death, ill health and disability in 15-49-year-olds in the UK.
In 2018, in England alone, NHS doctors issued 147, 436 prescriptions for pills to help people stop drinking. This does not even include prescriptions issued for alcohol detoxification. It only covers medications that support alcohol abstinence.
In England, there are an estimated 602,391 dependent drinkers. Only 18% of them are receiving treatment for their condition.
Treatment provided by local drug and alcohol teams is, at best supportive. The NHS sadly lack the intensive resources required to treat alcohol addiction comprehensively in the community.
Pills that can help you stop drinking alcohol
There are currently two types of medications to help you stop drinking alcohol.
The first type of medication supports alcohol detoxification and works by reducing the severity of withdrawal symptoms. This makes alcohol detox safer and more achievable. These medications are only usually prescribed within a hospital setting or private detox facility.
The second type of medication supports alcohol abstinence and works in different ways.
In the UK, there are currently 4 different drugs that are approved to treat alcohol use disorders within the community. Doctors prescribe these to those that struggle with alcohol cravings, those that are unable to reduce their alcohol intake and those that struggle to remain abstinent.
If you wish a prescription for any of these medications, you will need to speak to your local drug and alcohol team.
The four medications that can help you stop drinking are:
Acamprosate, commonly sold under the brand name Campral, is a drug that is said to reduce cravings for alcohol and withdrawal symptoms. This is a pill that may help you to stop drinking if you are a heavy drinker or abuse alcohol.
Acamprosate is not suitable for severe alcohol withdrawal or where a person has a heavy dependence on alcohol. Whilst it may support a person in reducing their alcohol intake, other medications should be used to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms from occurring.
Various studies have found that acamprosate is only effective in treating alcohol disorders when combined with counselling and psychotherapy. Used on its own, it has been found to be ineffective.
Baclofen, a selective gamma-aminobutyric acid-B (GABA-B) receptor agonist, has been trialled for its effectiveness in treating alcohol withdrawal. However, the studies show mixed results. This is partly due to the uncertainty around dosing and its effectiveness. There were also some concerns for patient safety.
Baclofen is believed to work by decreasing the activity of certain neurotransmitters within the brain. Its use in alcohol use disorders is prescribed off-label. More commonly, Baclofen, sold under the brand name Lioresal, is used to treat muscle spasticity.
Disulfiram is a drug that can be prescribed for the treatment of alcohol dependence, but only under expert supervision. Whilst its licensing says that it treats alcohol dependence, this is actually very misleading. Disulfiram is a pill that works by acting as a deterrent against consuming alcohol. It can only be safely administered once a person has stopped drinking altogether.
Disulfiram medication works by blocking the body from processing alcohol. This drug should only be used in conjunction with professional counselling to treat and support a person in remaining abstinent from alcohol. If a person drinks even a small amount of alcohol whilst taking this drug, their body will produce a violent reaction, making them very unwell.
The risk factors associated with Disulfiram are high. A person with alcoholism may stop the drug in order to drink but not have fully metabolised the drug. This can cause them to have a disulfiram-alcohol reaction, causing them to be so violently ill that they end up requiring hospitalisation.
Naltrexone can be used to treat alcohol and opioid abuse. It works by blocking certain pleasure receptors in the brain. This results in a person feeling no pleasurable effects as a result of drinking alcohol or taking opiates.
Much like any pill used to help a person stop drinking, Naltrexone should be combined with professional counselling and therapy. In order for the drug to work, a person will need to refrain from drinking alcohol and remain abstinent.
Clinical trials show that this drug can only be successful in treating alcohol use disorders when combined with behavioural therapies. At best, Naltrexone is a complementary therapy designed to support continued abstinence and act as a deterrent against relapse.
The above medications can all help to support a person in refraining from drinking alcohol once they are sober. They are not designed to be used as a replacement for alcohol detox, nor are they designed to be used as a stand-alone treatment for alcohol use disorders.
Medications to support alcohol withdrawal
Medications that can help you to stop drinking are approved for use in alcohol detoxification. As anyone knows, the first step in recovery from any addiction is to stop the harmful substance or activity safely first.
For many people with alcohol dependence, it is not safe for them to stop or reduce without medical help and intervention.
Alcohol detox medications are designed to alleviate and control alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Thus enabling a person to safely stop the alcohol and providing a vital window of opportunity for rehabilitation.
Tablets that are approved for the treatment of alcohol detoxification include:
Valium / Diazepam
Valium is a benzodiazepine sold under the popular brand name of diazepam, amongst others. To treat alcohol withdrawal, valium is most commonly prescribed within clinical settings. This is for patient safety and so that a person can be continually monitored.
Valium works by reducing the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It achieves this by calming the overactivity in the brain that results from acute alcohol withdrawal.
Diazepam is a long-acting benzodiazepine, and in the instance of alcohol, detoxification is only suitable when strict clinical protocols are followed.
Chlordiazepoxide hydrochloride / Librium
Known as the stop drinking pill, Librium is another commonly used benzodiazepine drug that is used to help people through alcohol withdrawal safely.
Chlordiazepoxide hydrochloride, like valium, is only suitable for use in clinical settings due to the effects it produces.
Sold under the common brand name of Librium, chlordiazepoxide hydrochloride works by calming the acute overactivity in the brain that is caused by the onset of acute alcohol withdrawal.
This drug works by safely withdrawing a person who is moderately or severely dependent on alcohol and who is not safe to reduce without medication.
Benzodiazepine medications are the most commonly used drugs in alcohol detoxification. This is not to say they are the only drugs. There are other drugs that reduce the chances of life-threatening seizures and delirium tremens developing. However, these medications are prescribed off-label and only used in instances where a long-acting benzodiazepine is deemed unsuitable.
Supplements for alcohol detoxification
Whilst stopping drinking with the assistance of a pill, it is helpful to have supportive therapy in addition to clinical management. This can help a person to stay motivated and focused during the detoxification process.
If your detox is conducted within one of our CQC-registered inpatient rehabs, you may also be prescribed medications and supplements to address the following conditions:
- Vitamin deficiency ( vitamin B1 is commonly prescribed to support the brain during alcohol detoxification)
- Co-existing mental health disorders
- Medications to help you sleep
- Medications to treat any underlying infections
Our inpatient residential detox centres also offer a plethora of evidenced holistic therapies that can aid relaxation and boost your mood. All of these things can help to keep you engaged in the detox process.
Intensive behavioural therapies and counselling can only be optimally beneficial once an alcohol detox has been completed. This is due to alcohol withdrawal symptoms and the various medications used having an adverse effect on concentration, cognition and memory.
When are medications prescribed to help stop alcohol?
Hopefully, by now, you will have come to understand that medication is just one element of successful alcohol addiction treatment.
Tablets to stop drinking alcohol are just that – helpful aids. They can assist in reducing or stopping alcohol.
Whilst these medications to stop drinking can make the process of quitting alcohol easier, they do not do the job for you. You will need to arrive at a point where you are ready to give up drinking.
For most people with an alcohol use disorder, giving up alcohol is hard work. It goes against everything that it is them. This is because alcohol quite literally hijacks the brain and compulsively drives them to drink alcohol, regardless of the risks attached.
If alcohol is threatening to take or has taken everything you love in life and you want to stop, then this is a great place to start alcohol treatment.
Medication to help you stop drinking may be prescribed in the following instances:
- Inpatient detox – Medication is prescribed during the initial detoxification period to minimise and support alcohol withdrawal
- Outpatient detox – Alcohol detox can be conducted on an outpatient basis provided the right help and support are in place and the alcohol withdrawal is mild
- Post detox – Medication may be prescribed to help support continued abstinence from alcohol
Clinically, the safest way to detox from alcohol is to undergo a full medical detox within an established CQC residential detox facility.
The risks of buying illicit alcohol detox tablets
These days you can buy practically anything from the internet or find someone willing to sell. However, when it comes to medications for alcohol addiction, this can prove extremely dangerous. We recommend that you buy any over-the-counter medication to stop drinking alcohol. UK pharmacies can advise you on safe options. Alternatively, your doctor may prescribe you medication to help stop you from drinking alcohol if they think it is necessary.
The risks of buying tablets to stop drinking alcohol:
- You don’t know where they are sourced from.
Alcohol pills on the internet are usually only available in generic form. Some are made in homemade laboratories. Some are not approved medications for alcohol treatment.
- You will be at a very high risk of harm
Attempting an alcohol detox with pills bought from illicit sources puts you at high risk of relapse, developing an addiction to alcohol detox pills and unintentional overdose. Drinking alcohol whilst using detox medications can prove fatal.
- Alcohol detoxes should always be medically monitored
Alcohol detox should be conducted with medical supervision, preferably within a purpose-built environment such as an alcohol rehab. You may experience adverse effects by attempting this at home. You will also be at high risk of falling and sustaining an injury.
- You won’t know the correct medication or dosage for your individual alcohol problem. Everyone is different, and this needs to be assessed by a qualified medical professional. A doctor can advise on the correct medication(s), as well as the dosages and frequency of administration. The duration of your alcohol detox will also depend on several factors that are personal to you.
- Pills only treat the physical symptoms of stopping drinking. Detox and anti-craving medications do nothing to change the mindset. In order to successfully stop alcohol where there is an addiction or dependence, motivational, supportive and behavioural therapies are essential.
Alcohol use disorders are medically recognised as chronic and progressive disorders of the brain. If they are not treated correctly and comprehensively, the risk of relapse is almost inevitable. The whole person requires intensive healing in order to overcome alcohol addiction. This means healing on a physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual level.
Alcohol use disorders also range in their severity from person to person. They are far more complex than just a physical dependence on alcohol. Ideally, a personalised detox and rehabilitation programme should be undertaken by anyone who has a problem with stopping drinking.
Access effective alcohol detox medications now
If you want help to stop drinking, we are here to provide that help quickly and effectively.
Following a telephone assessment with one of our friendly addiction treatment counsellors, we can devise a bespoke detox programme. All you have to do is pick up the phone and call us.
Our world-class addiction treatment centres offer a variety of treatment programmes and prices to suit most budgets.
We focus on healing each of our patients as a whole person. The best way in which we can do this is through a bespoke alcohol rehabilitation programme that immediately follows detox.
We know there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to recovery. Different people have different treatment needs. We will listen to any concerns you have and answer any questions so that you feel reassured and relaxed about coming into treatment.
If you have a preferred medication in which to complete alcohol detox, we will also factor that into your treatment plan. We feel it is important that you feel heard and confident in letting us help.
Alcohol dependence and addiction kill. Thankfully, it is treatable, and we have the means. We treat alcoholism through our teams of multidisciplinary professionals. Simultaneously delivering first-class addiction treatment, coupled with the highest standards of care.
We can not only help you to get sober, comfortably and safely but can show you how to live a sober and purposeful life. Call or message us now for further information.
- The public health burden of alcohol: evidence review. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-public-health-burden-of-alcohol-evidence-review
- Statistics on Alcohol England 2020. Statistics on Alcohol 2020: Data Tables (version 2)
- Public Health England (2021).https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/alcohol-dependence-prevalence-in-england
- Public Health England (2021). https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/public-health-dashboard-ft#page/11/gid/1938133154/pat/6/par/E12000006/ati/102/are/E10000015/iid/93011/age/168/sex/4
- Acamprosate to Reduce Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal. https://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00106106
- , “Acamprosate: A Review of Its Use in Alcohol Dependence”. GL (July 2015). https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40265-015-0423-9
- The Use of Baclofen as a Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder: A Clinical Practice Perspective – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6328471/
- “Baclofen Monograph for Professionals”. https://www.drugs.com/monograph/baclofen.html
- Disulfiram. https://bnf.nice.org.uk/drug/disulfiram.html#indicationsAndDoses
- Disulfiram At a Glance – Incorporating Alcohol Pharmacotherapies Into Medical Practice. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64036/
- Biology of Addiction. Drugs and Alcohol Can Hijack Your Brain – https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2015/10/biology-addiction
- Understanding alcohol use disorder. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-use-disorder