Medication-Assisted Treatment For Alcohol Use Disorder

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is used to help people who are addicted to alcohol achieve sobriety. MAT programs help reduce cravings, alleviate withdrawal symptoms, and diminish the chances of relapse.

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Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


Medication-assisted treatment is a useful, behavioral health tool in helping to address the severe and potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms of alcohol abuse and opioid withdrawal.

But only about 6.8% of people addicted to alcohol receive medication-assisted treatment (MAT), according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Some medications which can treat alcohol dependence or addiction include naltrexone (Vivitrol), disulfiram (Antabuse), and acamprosate (Campral).

Medication-assisted treatment services can help you or your loved one recover from drug use, the effects of opioids, or alcohol by combining medications with therapy, counseling, and other treatments.

Here is everything you need to know about the MAT treatment option and how it works to help you quit drinking or using opiate drugs safely and effectively.

Why Medication-Assisted Treatment Works For Alcohol Use Disorder

Meds such as naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram are used as part of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved three-step treatment for AUD.

Here are reasons why medication-assisted treatment works for substance use disorders involving alcohol:

Rebalancing The Brain’s Chemistry

Medications can rebalance neurotransmitters in a person’s brain that have been thrown out of balance by alcohol.

Disulfiram, for example, blocks an enzyme that helps metabolize alcohol. This causes people to feel sick if they drink while taking disulfiram, discouraging them from drinking.

Documented Success Rates

Medications for alcohol use disorder have proven effective in treating AUD.

A study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that naltrexone and acamprosate are safe and effective when used as part of an FDA-approved treatment plan for AUD.

Medications Used In Medication-Assisted Treatment For Alcohol Abuse

Medications used in MAT programs treat alcohol use disorder and help you quit drinking alcohol.


These medications are sedatives that reduce anxiety and stress. They can also decrease alcohol cravings. Examples include diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and chlordiazepoxide (Librium).

These drugs have a high potential for abuse and addiction as well, so it is best to use them only under medical supervision. But when used properly, benzodiazepines can help with alcohol detox.

Antiepileptic Medications

Use of medications such as these include treatment of epilepsy and other seizure disorders.

They include gabapentin (Neurontin), topiramate (Topamax), carbamazepine (Tegretol), oxcarbazepine (Trileptal), lamotrigine (Lamictal), phenobarbital, and phenytoin (Dilantin).

Some of these drugs have been shown to reduce alcohol cravings.


This injectable drug blocks opioid receptors in your brain, stopping the euphoric effects associated with alcohol.

Typically used in opioid treatment programs (OTPs), it can also help reduce cravings for alcohol and withdrawal symptoms.

However, it may also cause side effects such as headaches and nausea. Naltrexone (Vivitrol) is usually taken once a day by mouth.


This drug helps ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms and reduces cravings for alcohol. Acamprosate (Campral) is generally taken three times a day with meals or between meals.

Like acamprosate, topiramate may help reduce alcohol cravings. However, it may also cause side effects such as fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and weight loss.


Also known as Antabuse, disulfiram causes nausea and other unpleasant symptoms when you drink alcohol.

These effects can be very strong in some people. Therefore, it is mainly used only if a person has a history of drinking even small amounts of alcohol.

Common Side Effects Of Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medications used in treatment for alcohol use disorder can come with their own set of side effects. Some of the most common include:


Some medications used to treat alcohol use disorder can cause depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Depression is a common side effect of medication-assisted treatment for AUD.

Common antidepressants to help ease these symptoms include bupropion (Wellbutrin), citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft).


Medications used to treat alcohol use disorder can cause dizziness, making you feel faint or lightheaded, typically a sign of withdrawal.


You may experience nausea and vomiting while taking medications for alcohol use disorder. This is usually a sign of withdrawal and should subside after a few days.


MAT medications, especially antidepressants, may cause fatigue and weakness.

Unfortunately, many healthcare professionals prescribe them alongside additional medications like antidepressants or sleeping pills.

NIH asserts that sleeping pills and antidepressants can cause fatigue and weakness. These side effects are usually mild and last for only a short period.

But it is crucial to inform your doctor immediately if these side effects lead to dehydration or other severe health issues, such as chest pains.

You can also talk to your healthcare provider about prescribing an alternative medication or lowering your dosage.

Treatment Programs For Alcohol Addiction

Your health professional may recommend an alcohol detox program and an inpatient or outpatient program to help you stop alcohol dependence or opioid dependence.

This may involve detox support as well as counseling, group therapy, and behavioral therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Detoxification can help rid your body of alcohol, but it doesn’t necessarily treat alcohol/opioid addiction or the effects of alcohol.

That’s why medication-assisted treatment is often a necessary part of recovery.

Medications can also be used with behavioral therapies to increase addiction treatment effectiveness. You may also get treatment for co-occurring disorders or health conditions.

Support groups provide a sense of community and encourage their members to share their alcohol and drug addiction experiences and offer each other advice.

The groups may include 12-step programs to help treat alcohol addiction and opioid use disorder.

Find Substance Abuse Treatment At Bedrock Recover Center

If you have an alcohol use disorder, medication-assisted treatment services from an addiction treatment center may be right for you.

Bedrock Recovery Center offers drug abuse and alcohol treatment programs that can put you on the path to recovery and help you learn to manage your triggers to prevent future relapses.

Find treatment for alcohol use disorder with medically assisted treatment plans from Bedrock Recovery Center today.

  1. National Institutes of Health: National Center for Biotechnology Information
  2. National Institutes of Health: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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