Like Asthma or Diabetes, not all Alcohol Dependence can be treated without medications. Medications are used for two reasons in Alcohol Dependence:
The medications that are prescribed for Alcohol detox fall into two categories Benzodiazepines and Other. Benzodiazepines work on the same receptor in the brain as Alcohol, and so can provide a safe detox when the dose is slowly decreased over time. The benzodiazepines that are FDA approved for use in Alcohol Detoxification are: chlordiazepoxide, clorazepate, diazepam, Librium, oxazepam, Serax, Tranxene, and Valium.
There is only one medication in the Other category: chloral hydrate. It is unclear how chloral hydrate works, and it is no longer commonly used as a detox medication.
After an individual is detoxed from Alcohol, it is often necessary to provide rehabilitation and/or another medication to help prevent relapse to Alcohol use. The medications that are FDA approved for use in Alcohol Dependence are: Antabuse, Campral, naltrexone (ReVia) and Vivitrol.
Finally, a significant number of individuals who have Alcohol Dependence, also have a co-occurring disorder such as Depression, Anxiety or other psychiatric disorder. It is very important to treat the co-occurring disorder simultaneously, as untreated depressive, anxious or other psychiatric symptoms increase the risk of relapse to Alcohol.