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Updated on June 16, 2023
6 min read

6 Medications That Treat Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

There are various medicines and treatment options available to help people stop drinking. You can speak to your doctor about the medication's pros, cons, and availability.

Currently, only three medications are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD). Three other medications can also potentially aid in treating AUD, although they aren't FDA-approved.

Here are six medications used to help people stop drinking:

3 Best FDA-Approved to Help You Stop Drinking

Here is an overview of the three FDA-approved medications for treating AUD:

1. Disulfiram 

Disulfiram, previously known as Antabuse, was the first medication approved to treat alcohol dependence. The medicine works by causing an intense adverse reaction when someone drinks alcohol. Most people taking disulfiram will vomit if they consume any amount of alcohol.

However, disulfiram does not reduce a person’s craving for alcohol. It also does not treat any alcohol-related withdrawal symptoms.3 Initially, disulfiram was given to people in large doses to make them extremely sick if they drank alcohol. 

Some people have experienced severe reactions, there were even reports of deaths due to disulfiram. Today disulfiram is prescribed in smaller quantities to treat AUD.

2. Naltrexone 

Naltrexone is a medication used to treat alcohol cravings. It has been sold under the brand names ReVia and Depade. In addition, an extended-release monthly injection form of the medication is marketed under the trade name Vivitrol.

The medicine works by reducing the effects a person experiences when consuming alcohol or taking opioid drugs. Human clinical trials in the late 80s and early 90s showed that naltrexone could decrease alcohol cravings and relapse risk. The medication is even more effective when paired with psychosocial therapy.8

3. Acamprosate 

Acamprosate is a medication that was previously sold under the brand name Campral. It is the most recent medicine approved for AUD treatment in the United States. The drug reduces alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Acamprosate was developed in France in 1982. It was assessed and tested for 7 years and approved by the French government to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 1988.

Acamprosate was first sold under the brand name Aotal®. It was widely used throughout Europe for 20 years and was approved in the U.S. in 2004.

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3 Other Medications for AUD (Not FDA-Approved)

Although the FDA doesn’t approve these medications, studies show that they have promise in treating AUD:

1. Topiramate

Topiramate is an anti-seizure medication that is currently being investigated for AUD treatment. Although it isn’t approved by the FDA yet, topiramate shows promise as a treatment alternative for AUD.11

Topiramate affects multiple neurotransmitter systems. According to researchers, topiramate can affect the brain’s response to alcohol cues. This effect can help reduce cravings among people with alcohol use disorder.

According to a study in 2011, Topiramate was also effective in reducing the chance of a relapse. It was also effective in reducing psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety.11

Unfortunately, topiramate isn’t effective for every aspect of AUD. However, it is effective for people with certain characteristics such as:11,12

  • Alcohol cravings
  • Drinking obsessions
  • Habitual drinking

2. Gabapentin

Gabapentin is a medication for epilepsy seizures, restless leg syndrome, and nerve pain caused by shingles. Occasionally it has been used to treat other addictions, but it’s usually used for AUD.

Alcohol use disorder causes an imbalance between stimulating and calming brain chemicals. Gabapentin blocks the release of brain-stimulating chemicals, creating a calming effect.13,14

Some research shows that gabapentin has promise for alcohol withdrawal treatment. In combination with other medications, gabapentin can:15

  • Reduce alcohol cravings
  • Improve insomnia
  • Lower anxiety
  • Improve mood
  • Prevent relapse

Studies show that gabapentin might be most effective in maintaining abstinence. It might work best in those with a history of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

3. Baclofen

Baclofen is an antispasmodic agent used to treat muscle pain and spasms. It’s also used to treat stiffness in people with multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury or disease.

Baclofen is a relatively new medication for AUD and has shown promise in some clinical trials.18 In other countries, baclofen is approved as a treatment for alcohol dependence. 

Some studies show that baclofen can help maintain sobriety for people who have already achieved it. There is also evidence that suggests that baclofen is effective in reducing heavy drinking habits. 16,17

However, there are potential risks when combining alcohol and baclofen. Mixing two sedative drugs can have serious adverse effects, such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Psychiatric symptoms 
  • Drowsiness
  • Cognitive problems
  • Confusion

Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcoholism 

There are various benefits of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for alcoholism. The approved medications for alcoholism can:

  • Reduce cravings by making alcohol less appealing
  • Make alcohol extremely undesirable
  • Help recovering alcoholics deal with fear and anxiety
  • Reduce withdrawal symptoms
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Do These Medications Have Any Risks? 

Medications for treating alcoholism come with some risks and side effects:

  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Weakness or fainting
  • Eye pain or changes in vision 
  • Mood or mental changes
  • Unusual thoughts or behavior
  • Numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness in hands or feet
  • Darkening of urine 
  • Light, gray-colored stools
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Yellowing of eyes or skin  (jaundice)

Less severe side effects, such as headache and fatigue, often go away during treatment as the body becomes used to the medication.

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How Can I Get Prescribed Medications to Stop Drinking?

Medication is usually paired with therapy and support groups to treat alcohol use disorder. With that in mind, you can get prescribed medication to stop drinking to help maintain sobriety. This is especially true if you're dependent on alcohol.

You can also be prescribed medication if you're going through an alcohol detox. When alcohol detox is treated in a licensed inpatient treatment center, medications are often prescribed to reduce uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. The medicines also help reduce the risk of severe complications during detoxification.

Do OTC Medications Help Alcohol Use Disorder?

The FDA does not recommend or approve any over-the-counter (OTC) products to treat AUD. However, kudzu extract and l-glutamine have been examined.  

Depending on the severity of alcohol addiction, one should consider alcohol withdrawal under medical supervision. Side effects of detoxification, such as seizures, can be dangerous and life-threatening.

Kudzu Extract

Kudzu extract is a herbal remedy that may help minimize alcohol cravings and reduce heavy drinking episodes.6 Kudzu extract originates from the root of a Japanese plant.

L-Glutamine

L-glutamine is an amino acid that the body naturally creates. Significant amounts of alcohol can affect how l-glutamine is synthesized and absorbed in the body. 

Researchers are exploring the supplementation of l-glutamine as a way to:

  • Help regulate the body’s chemistry
  • Manage alcohol cravings
  • Reduce the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal
  • Improve moods

Can I Detox From Alcohol Without Medications?

Many people consider detoxing from alcohol without medication at home. They may believe an at-home detox makes detoxification easier to deal with.

There's usually no place more comfortable, controllable, and safe-feeling than a person's home. However, detoxing at home without medication can be dangerous and is not recommended by healthcare professionals. This is especially true for those who do not understand the risks that come with alcohol withdrawal.

While detoxing at home without medication is possible, treatment programs at a professional rehab facility are highly recommended. Talk to a medical provider to determine the best treatment program for you.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Use Disorder

Although medication may help you stop drinking, you'll need to pair it with other forms of treatment to get the best results. Going to a facility can provide essential professional help that is catered to your needs.

The available treatment options for alcohol use disorder include:

Updated on June 16, 2023
18 sources cited
Updated on June 16, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. “Incorporating Alcohol Pharmacotherapies Into Medical Practice. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,” 2009.
  2. O'Malley, S., and O'Connor, P. “Medications for unhealthy alcohol use: across the spectrum.” Alcohol research & health: the journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2011.
  3. Mayo Clinic. “Disulfiram (Oral Route).” www.mayoclinic.org, 2020.
  4. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH). "Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help." www.niaaa.nih.gov, 2014.
  5. MedlinePlus. “Alcohol withdrawal.”www.medlineplus.gov, 2019.
  6. Penetar et al. “A single dose of kudzu extract reduces alcohol consumption in a binge drinking paradigm.” Drug and alcohol dependence, 2015.
  7. MAT Medications, Counseling, and Related Conditions. “Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).” 2020. 
  8. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. “Incorporating Alcohol Pharmacotherapies Into Medical Practice. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.” 2009.
  9. Caren. “The American Alcohol Problem: An Overlooked and Deadly Epidemic,” www.caron.org.
  10. Grant et al. “Epidemiology of DSM-5 Alcohol Use Disorder: Results From the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions III.” JAMA Psychiatry, 2015.
  11. Paparrigopoulos et al. “Treatment of alcohol dependence with low-dose topiramate: an open-label controlled study.” BMC Psychiatry, 2011.
  12. Guglielmo et al. “Topiramate in Alcohol Use Disorders: Review and Update.” CNS drugs, 2015.
  13. Anton et al. "Efficacy of Gabapentin for the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder in Patients With Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms: A Randomized Clinical Trial." JAMA Intern Med, 2020.
  14. Rigal et al. "Titrated baclofen for high-risk alcohol consumption: A randomized placebo-controlled trial in outpatients with one-year follow up." Addiction, 2019.
  15. Modesto-Lowe et al. "Gabapentin for alcohol use disorder: A good option, or cause for concern?" Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 2019.
  16. Andrade C. "Individualized, high-dose baclofen for reduction in alcohol intake in persons with high levels of consumption." J Clin Psychiatry. 2020.
  17. Garbutt et al. "Efficacy and tolerability of baclofen in a U.S. community population with alcohol use disorder: a dose-response, randomized, controlled trial." Neuropsychopharmacol, 2021.
  18. de Beaurepaire et al. “The Use of Baclofen as a Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder: A Clinical Practice Perspective.” Frontiers in psychiatry, 2019.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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