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medication-assisted treatment for alcohol use disorder

Understanding Alcohol Addiction & Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment for alcohol has been gaining popularity to offer those who have struggled with continuous relapse a path to long-lasting sobriety. Alcohol is a widely accepted and legally accessible substance and is a significant part of various societal and cultural practices. Alcohol misuse leads to alcohol use disorder, also known as alcohol addiction and alcoholism. This is a condition marked by an inability to control or stop alcohol consumption despite its harmful consequences.

In the United States alone, millions of adults and adolescents grapple with alcohol use disorder (AUD), necessitating effective treatment strategies. Medication-assisted treatment has gained considerable attention in recent years. Lighthouse Recovery Institute offers medication-assisted treatment for alcohol use disorders to help those who need the additional support of medication instead of strictly abstinence-based methods.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?

AUD is a condition characterized by excessive consumption of alcohol, leading to physical and emotional dependence. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines AUD as a chronic relapsing brain disease. It’s marked by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse consequences.

Excessive drinking can take various forms, such as binge drinking or heavy drinking. Alcohol addiction often manifests through binge and heavy drinking patterns, coupled with physical dependence, cravings, and withdrawal symptoms when alcohol intake is reduced or stopped. Trauma or unresolved mental health issues can also lead to alcohol addiction.

The Need for Effective Treatment

Addressing alcohol use disorder often requires a combination of behavioral and medical interventions. If someone stops drinking abruptly, it can trigger severe and potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms. Medical detox is often required to detox from alcohol safely. MAT combined with medical detox and following treatment can be a safe and effective treatment path.

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

MAT is a comprehensive approach to managing drug and alcohol use disorders. It involves using FDA-approved medications and behavioral therapies to provide a “whole-patient” approach to treatment. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recognizes MAT as a highly effective treatment option that can improve patient survival, increase retention in treatment, and decrease illicit opiate use, among other benefits.

The role of MAT for alcohol addiction is to alleviate the physical symptoms of withdrawal and reduce cravings, thereby making the recovery process smoother and more manageable.

Key Components of MAT for Alcohol Addiction

The primary components of MAT, tailored to individual needs, are:

  • Medications: These are FDA-approved drugs that help manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.
  • Behavioral Therapies: These include individual and group counseling sessions to help individuals understand and address the root causes of their addiction.

The combined use of medications and behavioral therapies in MAT offers a well-rounded approach to treating alcohol use disorder.

Understanding MAT for Alcohol Use Disorder

Dealing with AUD is challenging, given the easy availability and societal acceptance of alcohol. The recovery process can be made smoother by using specific medications as part of a MAT program like the one offered at Lighthouse Recovery Institute.

Common Medications in MAT

The most commonly used medications in MAT for AUD are Disulfiram, Naltrexone, and Acamprosate.


Disulfiram is beneficial for individuals in the early stages of recovery, post-detoxification. It is taken once daily in tablet form. The medication acts as a deterrent, producing unpleasant side effects when an individual consumes alcohol. These effects include headaches, nausea, chest pain, vomiting, and difficulty breathing, which typically begin within 10 minutes of alcohol consumption and may persist for over an hour. The associated discomfort often deters individuals from consuming alcohol.


Naltrexone aims to break the association between alcohol and pleasure. It blocks the euphoric effects of alcohol intoxication, thereby encouraging individuals to maintain their commitment to recovery. Available in tablet and injectable forms (Vivitrol), Naltrexone treatment is most effective when used alongside behavioral therapy and a comprehensive recovery plan.


Acamprosate is beneficial for individuals who have overcome the initial phase of detoxification and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It is usually administered from the fifth day of abstinence and reaches its full effectiveness within five to eight days. Acamprosate reduces cravings and improves an individual’s chances of maintaining abstinence when combined with comprehensive therapy and treatment.

The Efficacy of MAT for Alcohol Use Disorder

Recovery from alcohol use disorder is not a one-size-fits-all process. Some individuals might achieve success with complete abstinence, while others may need additional help, especially in the early stages of recovery. Evidence-based care suggests that MAT is significantly effective in minimizing withdrawal symptoms, mitigating cravings, and improving the odds of maintaining sobriety.

For instance, the Lighthouse Recovery Institute offers MAT for those struggling with alcohol addiction, demonstrating a commitment to providing scientific, evidence-based care.

Accompanying Therapies in MAT

While medications play a crucial role in managing the physical aspects of AUD, behavioral therapies and peer support are equally vital. Treatment like a PHP or IOP helps individuals understand the root causes of their addiction. Pairing therapy and MAT equips individuals with the necessary coping skills and resources for long-term recovery.

Integrated treatment in MAT also addresses co-occurring disorders, trauma, and family therapy, among other factors, providing a holistic approach to recovery. Individuals work closely with their therapists and physicians throughout treatment to monitor progress, make necessary adjustments, and ensure all-around support.

Overcoming AUD is a complex and challenging journey. However, with the right treatment approach, such as MAT, recovery can become less daunting and more manageable. The combination of medications, behavioral therapies, and continuous support creates a comprehensive treatment plan that can significantly improve the chances of long-term recovery. Remember, seeking help is the first step towards a healthier life.

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