Medically Assisted Treatment for Alcohol

Medically Assisted Treatment for Alcohol

Going through alcohol withdrawal can be an uncomfortable experience. Fortunately there are medical interventions that can ease the symptoms of detox as well as help individuals along their journey through recovery. Medically assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, which is effective in the treatment of substance abuse and can help some people to sustain recovery. Medically assisted treatment for alcohol can help people recovering from alcohol use disorder by blocking cravings, avoiding relapse, and helping to rewire the brain’s chemistry.

Medications Used in Medically Assisted Treatment for Alcohol

There are three types of medication typically used during medically assisted treatment for alcohol, including Acamprosate, Naltrexone, and Disulfiram. Other medications that an individual may take during MAT include sleep aids, anxiety medication, medication to treat seizures, and medication to treat headaches, nausea, and other physical symptoms.


Acamprosate, if used along with counseling and social support, can help people who have stopped drinking large amounts of alcohol by avoiding drinking alcohol again. Drinking alcohol for a long time changes the way the brain works. Acamprosate works by helping the brain of people who have drunk large amounts of alcohol to work normally again.

  • Alcohol withdrawal can disrupt chemical signaling in the brain, and Acamprosate works to stabilize this.
  • Over three to twelve months, it increases the number of people who do not drink at all and the number of days without alcohol.
  • Acamprosate was approved by the FDA in July 2004.


Naltrexone is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat opioid use disorders and alcohol use disorders. It comes in a pill form or as an injectable. The pill form of naltrexone (better known by its brand names of ReVia or Depade) can be taken once per day. The injectable extended-release form of the drug (better known as its brand name Vivitrol) is administered once a month.

Naltrexone works by blocking the body from becoming intoxicated. This is used as an extra “padding” for individuals who enter treatment and right before they leave when relapse is most likely. By blocking the body from becoming intoxicated, it can help alter people’s behavioral patterns and avoid dangerous relapses.

  • Naltrexone has been shown to decrease the amount and frequency of drinking
  • The opioid antagonist blocks the positive-reinforcement effects of alcohol and allows the person to stop or reduce drinking
  • The most common side effects reported with naltrexone are gastrointestinal complaints, such as diarrhea and abdominal cramping


Disulfiram is used in medically assisted treatment for alcohol by causing unpleasant effects when even small amounts of alcohol are consumed. These effects begin about 10 minutes after alcohol enters the body and last for a period of 30 minutes, or even up to several hours.

These effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Blurred vision
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Chest pain
  • Choking
  • Flushing of the face
  • Headache
  • Mental confusion
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

By becoming extremely sick when drinking even small amounts of alcohol, Disulfiram is a great deterrent for individuals who are in early recovery. In addition to alcohol use disorder, Disulfiram has also been studied as a possible treatment for cancer and latent HIV infection.

Medications for Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

Along with helping to repair the brain’s chemistry and deterring alcohol use, medically assisted treatment for alcohol can also help ongoing physical withdrawal symptoms. Many individuals who experienced severe alcohol addiction feel acute withdrawal symptoms for weeks, months, or years after becoming sober.

These Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty with cognitive tasks, such as learning, problem-solving, or memory recall
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of anxiety or panic
  • Depressed mood
  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviors
  • Difficulty maintaining social relationships
  • Craving originally abused substances
  • Apathy or pessimism
  • Disturbances in sleep patterns
  • Increased sensitivity to stress

Success Rates of Medically Assisted Treatment for Alcohol

  • Research shows that patients on MAT for at least 1-2 years have the greatest rates of long-term success
  • MAT is so effective because it can be tailored to fit the unique needs of the patient
  • MAT has been shown to assist patients in recovery by improving quality of life, level of functioning and the ability to handle stress

About Cliffside Malibu

Medically assisted treatment for alcohol is the safest, most comfortable, and most effective way to become sober — and stay sober — after alcohol addiction.

Since no two addictions are the same, Cliffside Malibu offers an individualized treatment plan for every client. Our treatment team works with individuals to determine the appropriate MAT protocol. We are committed to providing evidence-based treatment through a continuum of care model including medically supervised detox, residential treatment, day treatment, and outpatient services. Our program also includes family therapy and holistic therapy, as well. Whether an individual is suffering from substance abuse and/or alcohol addiction, our programs are structured to create a supportive environment where healing can begin.

In addition to world-class treatment, Cliffside Malibu offers luxury accommodations, a serene environment, five-star dining, and plentiful amenities. We understand that addiction treatment is a rigorous process. Therefore, we provide for your comfort and relaxation at every turn, allowing you to rejuvenate, and meet the demands of treatment with your greatest energy and attention.

For more information on Cliffside Malibu, visit

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