Reduce Alcohol Craving

By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited: December 21, 2020 | 3 Sources

Licensed Medications

Reduce Alcohol Craving
Pharmacotherapy is invaluable in helping recovering alcoholics stop drinking and stay stopped

One of the biggest obstacles for recovering alcoholics in the first few weeks of sobriety is the constant obsession they have for alcohol. This is called craving and is one of the major factors in preventing alcohol dependents from staying away from alcohol.

Yet it doesn't need to be like this. There are a number of medications licensed by the FDA that can help alcoholics get through these first few weeks of sobriety unscathed. Please remember these medications are available by prescription only. Be sure to consult with a physician experienced in dealing with alcohol addiction to see if they are right for your situation.


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Licensed Medications To Reduce Alcohol Craving


Naltrexone was approved for use in the treatment of alcohol dependence on December 30, 1994. The reason it reduces the craving for alcohol is that it competes with other drugs, and that includes alcohol, for opioid receptors in the brain. This reduces the pleasurable effects of alcohol, and thus, reduces the cravings to have another drink.

Unlike Disulfiram (see below), Naltrexone does not make you feel sick if you drink alcohol while taking it. Naltrexone does not decrease the effects of alcohol that impair coordination and judgment.

Typical duration of treatment with Naltrexone is three to six months. Your doctor should devise a plan for you that will determine the appropriate dosage and treatment schedule.

Disulfiram (Anatabuse)

Disulfiram is a medication for alcohol abuse that a physician will often prescribe to a patient for the treatment of chronic alcoholism. This drug does not reduce your cravings in the same way Naltrexone does, rather it deters an alcoholic from drinking by producing an unpleasant reaction when alcohol is consumed. It is a deterrent drug.

When taken as prescribed, Disulfiram works by causing a variety of uncomfortable effects that occur a very short time after the patient decides to drink alcohol.

These effects include:

  • blurred vision
  • vomiting
  • headache
  • choking
  • sweating
  • flushing
  • chest pain
  • nausea
  • mental confusion
  • anxiety
  • problems with breathing

Once taken, Disulfiram will stay in your system for up to 24 hours, so it is advised not to drink within this time period.

Disulfiram is also known as Antabuse (literally anti-abuse).

Although this medication for alcoholism is in no way a cure for alcoholism, it can help a great deal in discouraging a person from taking a drink.

Acamprosate Calcium (Campral)

Acamprosate is currently approved for anti-craving and/or anti-relapse treatment for the treatment of alcohol dependence. It helps normalize brain activity and helps to reduce alcohol cravings.

As well as normalizing brain activity, Acamprosate seems to lessen the distress and severe emotional unease recovering alcoholics feel in the first few weeks/months of sobriety.

The advantage of this drug is that even if an individual is unsuccessful in refraining from drinking they will experience no adverse effects if they drink while having taken Acamprosate.

Acamprosate is at its most effective in those who have already stopped drinking and are committed to staying that way.

A review of 15 studies seemed to show that Acamprosate successfully reduced the amount of alcohol dependents who relapsed if they also underwent a program of counseling/therapy; There is also evidence that Acamprosate helps individual remain abstinent regardless of other treatment they may or may not undergo.

There are occasionally side effects from taking this medication, however, they are minor and either require no treatment or can be treated easily. Such side effects include diarrhea and less often - nausea and itching.

This page is purely for informational purposes and does not replace the advice of a trained and qualified physician in any way.

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Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

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