Alcoholism is a disease with severe effects on body and brain. Certain drugs help curb drinking habit, but they should be taken strictly under a doctor’s supervision because unauthorized use may lead to serious implications and can be fatal for users.
Below are a few drugs that can help control alcoholism, their effects, side effects and potential threat, if any:
1. Topirimate (Topomax)
It is an anticonvulsant, mood-stabilizing drug that can help reduce alcohol cravings. Topirimate works by reducing brain levels of neurotransmitter dopamine and potentially resetting the brain’s chemistry. Dopamine creates pleasurable sensation which is akin to the ones alcoholics derive from drinks.
But it also has certain side effects, like causing numbness and tingling sensations in the hands and feet, confusion, difficulty concentrating, headache, nervousness, mood swings and drowsiness. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued fresh warnings, indicating the occurrence of cleft lip and/or cleft palate in infants when exposed to Topirimate during pregnancy.
A 2008 research revealed that Topirimate works wonders by reducing the body mass index (BMI), all liver enzyme levels, cholesterol levels, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure. It was found that Topirimate significantly decreases obsessive thoughts and compulsions about using alcohol. It also immensely contributes to a patient’s well-being, improves quality of life, and reduces relapse risks.
2. Baclofen (Lioresal or Gablofen)
It is a muscle relaxant which is known to reduce alcohol cravings in people. It works by increasing the amount of neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. The medicine, with a relaxing effect, is available only through a prescription and should never be taken without the physician’s advice because it entails side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, confusion, etc.
A research on Baclofen revealed that it could be effective in inducing abstinence from alcohol and reducing alcohol craving and consumption in alcoholics. Studies showed that it could be a useful drug in the treatment of alcohol-dependent patients.
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist which helps reduce the desire for alcohol and lessen alcohol’s positive effects. It works by blocking that part of the brain which is associated with alcohol-induced pleasure. When these areas of the brain get blocked, alcoholics become less inclined to drink alcohol and in the long run could also give up the habit.
But it is advisable not to consume Naltrexone without a doctor’s advice as it could lead to many complications and side effects. One may experience nausea, headache, dizziness, constipation, anxiety and insomnia.
A research on Naltrexone has revealed that it helps improve treatment outcomes of alcoholics in programs like Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, family therapy, addiction counseling, group therapy, and residential treatment. However, the only problem is the adherence to daily oral doses.
4. Disulfiram (Antabuse)
Antabuse has been in use since 1951 and is known for reducing alcohol cravings and the risk of relapse. It produces unpleasant effects in a drinker even when he has consumed very little. One may experience flushing, headache, nausea and vomiting within 1-2 hours. The toxin is slowly excreted from the body over two weeks.
Disulfiram should never be taken without a doctor’s prescription as it could cause side effects, like rashes, headache, drowsiness, weakness, upset stomach, tiredness, etc. Investigations have revealed that a significantly better effect on abstinence can be seen in patients treated with disulfiram.