Lots of people are referred to an expert drug and alcohol unit for detox. Normally, this is better for those with little home or social support, those with a history of extreme withdrawal symptoms, those with physical illness due to alcohol, and those where previous efforts to quit alcohol have failed.
The medications used to detoxification in specialist units are a lot the same as GPs prescribe, other than clomethiazole that should just be used in hospitals. Hospital units have a lot more employees and expertise for giving aid and counseling than GPs have. People with serious alcohol related problems might be better off being admitted to hospital for detoxification.
The medicine does not make you quit drinking. You need dedication to stop. The medication just helps you to feel better whilst your body re-adjusts to not having alcohol. Even after the time of detoxification you might still have a little craving for alcohol. Thus you will still need self-control and coping techniques for when you feel lured to drink.
Other medication sometimes used for alcohol issues
* Vitamins, specially vitamin B1 (thiamine), are often prescribed if you are alcohol dependent – particularly during detox. This is because a lot of people who’re dependent on alcohol don’t eat properly and may lack certain vitamins. Deficiencies of vitamin B1 is the most common. Deficiencies of this vitamin may cause severe brain conditions known as Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s psychosis.
* Acamprosate and naltrexone are medicines that can help to relieve alcohol craving. Either of these might be prescribed to many people after a successful detox to assist them to stay off alcohol.
* Disulfiram is another medicine which is sometimes used following a successful detoxification. Once you take disulfiram you get very unpleasant symptoms if you drink any alcohol (such as flushing, vomiting, palpitations and headache). Thus, in effect, the medicine works as a discouraging factor for when you’re influenced to drink. It can help many people to stay off alcohol.
* Olanzapine, haloperidol and lorazepam are all used in treating delirium tremens.
After detoxification and staying off alcohol
A lot of people who successfully detox return to drinking heavily again at some point. There are numerous reasons why this may happen. It is believed that you’re less likely to go back to drinking heavily if you’ve counseling, or other support to aid you to stay off alcohol. Your physician, practice nurse, or local drug and alcohol unit may provide ongoing support when you are trying to stay off alcohol. Self help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous have also assisted a lot of people to stay off alcohol.
If you do go back to heavy drinking, you may always try again to quit or cut down. Some people take many attempts before they quit drinking, or keep within the safe limits, for good.