The Different Medications Used in a Medical Alcohol Detox Program

What is Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol detox is the whole process of eliminating alcohol from the human system. It is hazardous to try to quit drinking abruptly without any plan in place. Abruptly ceasing alcohol intake can cause dangerous and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms.

One is likely to suffer physical and mental reactions known as alcohol withdrawal symptoms if they have been drinking excessively for many weeks, months, or years and then quit or drastically reduce their consumption. Continued alcohol abuse rewires one’s central nervous system, making it difficult for it to function normally when alcohol is no longer present.

The duration and severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms vary greatly from person to person. Below are the common alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

  • Headache.
  • Irritability.
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Hypertension.
  • Convulsions.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Delirium tremens.
  • Death.

The FDA has approved some specific medications to aid in the alcohol withdrawal process and detox.

Medications Used During Medical Alcohol Detox


Disulfiram works by blocking an enzyme in the liver that is responsible for processing alcohol. It causes effects such as flushing of the face, headache, sweating, nausea, impaired vision, and vomiting as early as 10 minutes after drinking alcohol and last until the individual stops drinking. As a result, a person who drinks often may start associating alcohol with unpleasant side effects and get dissuaded from continuing to do so. Disulfiram’s negative interaction with alcohol serves as a deterrent for heavy drinking.


Patients who have been effectively treated with naltrexone have reported that it decreases the desire or impulse to drink, aids in abstinence, and interferes with the urge to continue drinking if even a little amount of alcohol is consumed. However, patients with liver disease or hepatitis should not be prescribed naltrexone due to the risk of liver damage at high dosages.


Benzodiazepines are sedatives used to treat panic and anxiety disorders and prevent some forms of seizures. The majority of the more severe symptoms associated with quitting drinking may be mitigated with these medications, making them vital for some patients in alcohol detox. Diazepam and Chlordiazepoxide (Librium) are two examples of commonly used benzodiazepines.


Barbiturates are mostly used as an alternative in alcohol withdrawal after benzodiazepine therapy fails. The use of these drugs in emergency rooms and critical care units for those experiencing acute alcohol withdrawal has shown great potential. However, further research is required to determine the specific function of barbiturates in an alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

You Don’t Have to Do This Alone!

Alcohol detox is the first and most important step for chronic alcohol abusers. Suddenly stopping drinking is not advisable due to the possibly fatal withdrawal symptoms.  Consult with an addiction specialist or a treatment center about your alternatives. Most of them will advise you to seek the help of a medical alcohol detox program. Skyward Treatment Center has helped thousands of individuals in Houston and across the United States give up on alcohol through our comprehensive alcohol detox program. Besides, we also offer options to our clients at the end of the detox program e.g., inpatient rehab. Contact us today and begin your journey to recovery.