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Medication Assisted Treatment for Alcohol

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) uses FDA-approved medications along with counseling and therapy for treatment. This treatment helps individuals manage and treat their alcohol dependence. 


MAT is an effective approach for addressing alcohol use disorder. It involves a combination of medication, counseling, and therapy. By addressing both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction, MAT provides a more holistic pathway to recovery.

MAT is important because it:

  • Uses medications to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms
  • Provides counseling and behavioral therapies to address underlying issues and develop coping mechanisms
  • Offers a comprehensive solution for individuals seeking to overcome alcohol use disorder.

Understanding Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is a comprehensive approach to managing alcohol use disorder (AUD) by combining medications, counseling, and behavioral therapies. 

MAT involves the use of FDA-approved medications to treat substance use disorders, including alcohol. These medications work by:

  • Reducing cravings
  • Diminishing withdrawal symptoms
  • Blocking the rewarding effects of alcohol

Components of Medication Assisted Treatment

  • Acamprosate: Helps maintain abstinence by stabilizing brain chemistry.
  • Disulfiram: Creates an adverse reaction to alcohol, deterring consumption.
  • Naltrexone: Reduces cravings and blocks the euphoric effects of alcohol.
  • Individual therapy sessions that focus on the emotional and psychological aspects of addiction.
  • Group therapy provides peer support and shared experiences, which can be profoundly healing.

Using MAT increases the likelihood of sustained recovery by addressing the complex nature of substance use disorders.

The Benefits and Effectiveness of FDA-Approved Medications for Alcohol Treatment


Acamprosate is one of the main FDA-approved medications for treating Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). It helps individuals who are committed to recovery by supporting abstinence from alcohol. Understanding how acamprosate works and its benefits can be vital for those considering medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

How Acamprosate Works:

  • Restoring Balance: Acamprosate restores the chemical balance in the brain that chronic alcohol consumption often disrupts.
  • Targeting Neurotransmitters: It specifically targets the glutamate and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neurotransmitter systems significantly affected by alcohol dependence. By modulating these systems, acamprosate helps reduce the physical and emotional discomfort associated with withdrawal.

Benefits of Acamprosate:

  • Reducing Cravings: One of the main benefits of acamprosate is its ability to reduce cravings for alcohol. Unlike other medications that may act as deterrents or manage withdrawal symptoms short-term, acamprosate helps maintain long-term abstinence.
  • Preventing Relapse: Studies have shown that individuals taking acamprosate are less likely to relapse compared to those not on medication. This makes it an essential tool in a comprehensive MAT program.

How to Take Acamprosate:

  • Oral Tablets: Acamprosate is an oral tablet.
  • Dosage Frequency: It is to be taken three times daily.
  • Importance of Consistency: Consistent use is key to its effectiveness, so it’s important to adhere strictly to the prescribed dosage schedule.


Disulfiram is one of the main FDA-approved medications used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for alcohol use disorder (AUD). Its primary function is to deter individuals from drinking by causing unpleasant side effects after alcohol consumption.

How Disulfiram Works

Mechanism of Disulfiram:

  • Alcohol Metabolism Interference: Disulfiram works by inhibiting the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase, which is responsible for metabolizing acetaldehyde, a byproduct of alcohol metabolism. When this enzyme is blocked, acetaldehyde accumulates in the body.
  • Unpleasant Reactions: The buildup of acetaldehyde causes several unpleasant symptoms if alcohol is consumed. These can include:
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Headaches
    • Chest pain
    • Difficulty breathing

These adverse reactions serve as a powerful deterrent against drinking. By understanding how Disulfiram operates and its deterrent effects on drinking behavior, individuals struggling with AUD can make informed decisions about incorporating this medication into their comprehensive treatment plans.


Naltrexone is one of the main medications approved by the FDA for treating Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Its primary role is to:

  • Reduce cravings
  • Prevent relapses

How Naltrexone Works

Naltrexone functions by:

  • Blocking opioid receptors in the brain
  • Decreasing the pleasurable and calming effects of alcohol
  • Diminishing the rewarding sensation associated with drinking

This alteration in the brain’s response to alcohol helps in three significant ways:

  • Craving Reduction: By modifying how the brain reacts to alcohol, naltrexone assists in decreasing the intense cravings that often lead individuals to consume excessive amounts of alcohol.
  • Relapse Prevention: Naltrexone’s ability to mitigate cravings plays a crucial role in preventing relapses. It supports individuals in maintaining their commitment to abstinence by reducing the urge to drink.

Clinical Insights and Usage

Here are some important points to know about using naltrexone:


  • Oral Tablet: Usually taken once daily.
  • Extended-Release Injectable: Administered once a month, providing a more convenient option for those who may struggle with taking medication every day.

Effectiveness: Clinical studies have demonstrated that naltrexone significantly reduces the likelihood of heavy drinking days and promotes longer periods of abstinence. This makes it an effective tool in comprehensive treatment plans for AUD.

Addressing alcohol use disorder requires multi-faceted strategies, and medications like naltrexone offer substantial benefits. By reducing cravings and helping prevent relapses, naltrexone supports individuals on their journey toward long-term recovery from alcoholism.

The Comprehensive Approach: Integrating Counseling and Behavioral Therapies in MAT for AUD

Combining therapies with medication treatment is essential for a holistic recovery from Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). This integrated approach addresses not only the physical aspects of addiction but also the psychological and social factors contributing to it.

Importance of Integrating Counseling and Behavioral Therapies
  • Enhanced Effectiveness: Research indicates that when medication is combined with counseling and behavioral therapies, individuals are more likely to achieve sustained abstinence.
  • Addressing Root Causes: While medications can help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms, counseling helps uncover and address underlying issues such as trauma, stress, or co-occurring mental health disorders.
  • Building Coping Strategies: Behavioral therapies equip individuals with tools and strategies to handle triggers, manage stress, and engage in healthier behaviors.
  • Strengthening Support Systems: Counseling sessions often involve family members or loved ones, helping to rebuild trust and improve communication within the family unit.
Types of Counseling and Behavioral Therapies in MAT for AUD

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):

  • Focuses on changing negative thought patterns that contribute to drinking behaviors.
  • Teaches coping mechanisms to deal with stress and avoid relapse.

2. Motivational Interviewing (MI):

  • Encourages individuals to find their motivation for change.
  • Enhances commitment to treatment goals through guided discussions.

3. Contingency Management (CM):

  • Uses positive reinforcement to reward abstinence.
  • Increases engagement by providing tangible incentives for maintaining sobriety.

4. Family Therapy:

  • Addresses family dynamics that may contribute to or result from AUD.
  • Promotes a supportive environment crucial for long-term recovery.

Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder at Lighthouse Recovery

We understand the need for comprehensive treatment for alcohol use disorder. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we combine our clinical and medical expertise to offer you the best care possible for the treatment of alcohol use disorder. Contact us today; we’re here to help.

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for alcohol use disorder (AUD) involves the use of FDA-approved medications, counseling, and behavioral therapies to manage and support recovery from alcohol dependence.

Disulfiram works by blocking the euphoric effects of alcohol, thereby creating a deterrent effect on drinking behavior in individuals with AUD.

Naltrexone plays a key role in reducing cravings and preventing relapses in individuals with alcohol dependence, making it an important medication in MAT for AUD treatment.

Integrating counseling and behavioral therapies in MAT for AUD is important because it combines psychosocial interventions with medication treatment, leading to a holistic approach to recovery from alcoholism.

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is an evidence-based treatment option that supports long-term recovery from alcoholism. It empowers individuals to have open discussions with healthcare providers about incorporating MAT into their treatment plans, if appropriate.

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