Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

What You Need to Know About Medicine for Alcohol Use Disorder

 


FREE PREVIEW. AAFP members and paid subscribers: Log in to get free access. All others: Purchase online access.


FREE PREVIEW. Purchase online access to read the full version of this article.

Am Fam Physician. 2016 Mar 15;93(6):online.

  See related article on alcohol use disorder

What is alcohol use disorder?

People with this disorder drink too much alcohol. Drinking too much can hurt your liver and cause bleeding inside your body. You might also have balance problems, confusion, and memory problems. If you drink a lot and then suddenly stop, you can go through withdrawal. Withdrawal can cause shaking, seizures, and sometimes death. Drinking too much alcohol can make it hard for you to do your job and can affect your relationships with other people.

How is it treated?

Alcohol use disorder is a common cause of preventable death in the United States, yet many people don't get treated. If you drink too much, tell your doctor. Possible treatments are counseling (by yourself or in a group), support groups, and medicine. Your doctor can help you choose the treatment that is best for you.

What medicines can be used?

Three medicines are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat alcohol use disorder. They are acamprosate (brand: Campral), disulfiram (brand: Antabuse), and naltrexone (brand: Revia or Vivitrol). Acamprosate and naltrexone usually work the best. These medicines may help you drink less or stop drinking and not start again.

Medicines that are used to treat other illnesses may also help you drink less. These include antidepressants; some antiseizure medicines, like gabapentin (brand: Neurontin) or topiramate (brand: Topamax); and an antinausea medicine called ondansetron (brand: Zofran).

All of these treatments work best if you also go to counseling or a support group. If your doctor recommends medicine, you should take it every day and see your doctor regularly.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

Al-Anon Family Groups

http://www.al-anon.alateen.org

Alcoholics Anonymous

http://www.aa.org

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders

Self-Management and Recovery Training

http://www.smartrecovery.org

Women for Sobriety

http://www.womenforsobriety.org


This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

 

Copyright © 2016 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact afpserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions

CME Quiz

More in AFP


Editor's Collections


MOST RECENT ISSUE


Dec 1, 2016

Access the latest issue of American Family Physician

Read the Issue


Email Alerts

Don't miss a single issue. Sign up for the free AFP email table of contents.

Sign Up Now

Navigate this Article