Alcohol is responsible for the deaths of about 88,000 individuals in the US every year. It’s ranked third for cause of deaths within the United States. A major cause of alcohol-related deaths is motor vehicle accidents, accounting for almost 10,000 deaths each year. Alcohol can also cause diseases that affect various parts of the body – which can turn into life-threatening conditions.
Treatment for alcoholism is possible. Different strategies can be used to assist in treating this condition. Many people with alcohol use disorder opt for treatment at an alcohol detox center, such as Stonegate Center in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, followed by inpatient rehab for a minimum of 45-days. Others may not have the funds or medical cover to undergo treatment at such a facility.
This is why an increasing number of alcohol addicts are looking at ways to stop drinking from home. A home treatment system might be able to work for people with a minor alcohol use disorder but may pose as ineffective for those with a more severe addiction. We consider the OTC medications that might help with binge and heavy drinking, while also considering when a treatment program at a registered facility might be a better option.
Conventional Treatment Options for Alcohol Use Disorder
Conventional treatment for alcoholism generally involves an initial diagnostic procedure. During this process, a healthcare professional will generally determine the severity of the patient’s alcohol use disorder. This also ensures the treatment program provided is effective.
Some patients may need to be booked into a residential alcohol rehab center for men and others into an inpatient alcohol rehab for women. This allows the individual to undergo a supervised detox program. During this program, withdrawal symptoms are addressed.
With both inpatient and outpatient options, treatment will include counseling. The therapy services may be provided in group settings, as well as one-on-one counseling. Certain drugs may also be prescribed to a patient. These drugs focus on reducing the severity of the person’s withdrawal symptoms while the alcohol leaves their body.
Are There OTC Medication That Can Help?
It’s generally advised that a person receive conventional treatments when they suffer alcohol use disorder. Still, some people are unable to access such treatments. In other cases, the individual may only have a mild addiction to alcohol. These scenarios may sometimes be resolved with the use of certain OTC pills.
Patients should note that conventional drugs used to treat alcohol use disorder cannot be purchased without a prescription. Thus, these are not the OTC medications that the person is looking for. Instead, a few natural products have shown potential in reducing cravings for alcohol.
We take a closer look at a few of these medications that people can buy over the counter below.
Milk thistle is an herbal medicine that may help protect the liver from trying to quit alcohol. The herb itself may not help to eliminate cravings for alcohol. It does, however, pose as an effective addition to an existing alcohol use disorder treatment program.
Milk thistle has a high concentration of a chemical called silymarin. This chemical is primarily classified as an antioxidant. The antioxidant activities of silymarin may provide several benefits for the body. It helps to protect cells against damage. This includes liver cells, thus helping to provide a protective effect in people who drink a lot of alcohol.
Studies have confirmed that the silymarin content in milk thistle poses as a hepaprotective agent. Additionally, it also seems like existing liver damage caused by alcohol consumption might be gradually repaired with the use of this natural plant extract.
Milk thistle is available in the form of a capsule and in concentrate form. These products are added to water or placed on the tongue to help increase the absorption of the active chemicals in the extract.
Evening primrose is a rather common flower found in garden beds. What many fail to realize is that this plant actually holds potential medicinal properties. Extracts from the evening primrose plant are generally created in the form of a capsule. It is the seeds of the plant that is used to create these medicinal supplements.
There are a few useful chemicals contained in the seeds of the evening primrose plant. One of the most abundant chemicals is a fatty acid known as gamma-linolenic acid or GLA for short. This fatty acid, along with other chemicals found in evening primrose, generally contribute to its medicinal properties.
When it comes to alcoholism, there is a chance that taking an evening primrose supplement might help to reduce the cravings a person experience. This is due to the effects that the chemicals in evening primrose have on the gastrointestinal tract.
Bacteria are naturally found within the gut, and when a person drinks too much, the bacteria are affected. Toxic chemicals found in alcohol start to stick to the bacteria in the digestive system. This essentially affects the person’s cravings for more alcohol. With evening primrose, the bacteria are flushed out. New bacteria can then inhabit the gut – with no attached toxins. This may provide at least a slight reduction in the cravings the person experiences when they stop using alcohol.
Glutamine is a natural amino acid. The body relies on the amino acid for a range of different functions. It acts as a building block for certain proteins in the body too. Additionally, glutamine plays a role in the regulation of a person’s immune system. Intestinal well-being relies on a healthy supply of this amino acid too.
The body is generally capable of producing glutamine. In people with alcoholism, however, glutamine receptors are affected by the use of alcohol. There may also be a reduction in natural glutamine production within the person’s body.
When glutamine production is suppressed, it creates an imbalance in the chemistry of the body. This can create stronger urges to return to alcohol once cessation starts. The use of a supplement containing L-glutamine may help restore body chemistry during an alcoholism treatment program. In turn, this might be a strategy to block out cravings for alcohol.
Thiamine is a specific type of vitamin that is part of the B vitamin family. The vitamin has several important functions in the body too.
People with alcoholism often have a low level of thiamine in their bloodstream. When thiamine levels decline, there are several symptoms that a person may experience. This may include a consistent feeling of fatigue. Some explain the feeling as a weakness. Focusing on tasks becomes incredibly difficult, and many people also start to feel depressed.
By supplementing with thiamine during an alcohol recovery program, the individual may find that their energy levels are restored. Focus also becomes enhanced. There may also be an increase in mood, which may help to counter the depressive feel that comes with a deficiency of thiamine.
Another natural extract that has shown potential as a home remedy for alcoholism is known as Kudzu. This particular natural extract is advised for people with a mild to moderate problem with binge drinking. It may not be an effective option for people with alcoholism at a more severe level.
Kudzu extract itself seems to provide an effective reduction in alcohol consumption. Some studies have proven the effect. In one particular study, a group of participants was divided into two. The one group received a supplement that contained Kudzu extract. A second group received a placebo supplement.
The participants were told that they could drink as much beer as they want during a period of 90 minutes.
Among those who took the Kudzu supplement, there was a noticeable reduction in the amount of beer consumed during the study. The results were compared to the beer consumed among people who took a placebo pill instead.
This is one of the studies that show the potential of Kudzu extract to reduce alcohol consumption during a single sitting. The extract might also prove useful as a way of reducing alcohol cravings. This is helpful in people who have quit drinking, but find it hard to stay away from the alcohol after cessation.
How to Use OTC Medication to Stop Drinking?
When turning to OTC medication as a way to stop drinking, people need to realize that these do not replace professional treatment. It might be worth giving OTC remedies a try if the alcoholism is mild. With a more severe addiction, however, these OTC medicines may prove to be useless. They may, however, be effective when combined with a professional treatment plan.
When using OTC medication and supplements, it is always critical for the individual to consider the dosage recommendations. The person needs to ensure they only take the pills as directed on the packaging or insert. Taking more of the supplement will not help to provide a more effective way of speeding up the recovery process. Instead, an overdose of these medications may rather lead to unwanted side-effects.
When Should You Seek Professional Treatment?
As we have mentioned already, home remedies and OTC medications are not appropriate for every patient with alcohol use problems. Thus, knowing when professional treatment becomes essential is critical for any person with an alcohol use disorder. This remains an important factor for loved ones as well. The loved one needs to be wary of signs that home treatment is not helping. This will ensure they can take appropriate measures before alcoholism gets out of hand – or perhaps claim the life of the person they love.
The first sign that home treatment is not working would be a consistent relapse by the patient. The person with alcoholism may find that the home treatments don’t help reduce their cravings. Even though they’re using home remedies, the person may still continue to participate in heavy binge drinking on frequent occasions.
Recognizing signs of addiction is important, especially when the signs are very obvious. A more significant severity of alcoholism symptoms should be considered a call for concern. In such a case, it’s advised that professional assistance is sought.
Studies have shown that alcohol use disorder interferes with work capacity as well. This means employers need to be aware of signs related to alcoholism. Impairments in productivity lead to errors in the workplace. At this point, the need for contacting a professional also rises.
It’s useful to consider the diagnostic criteria used for alcoholism and professional treatment. These include:
- Alcohol is causing interference with the social life of a person.
- There may be a lack of responsibilities from the affected individual’s side.
- The person may continuously engage in behaviors that would generally be considered “risky.” These behaviors are generally seen right after or during the drinking session.
- More alcohol is needed by the person to feel the effects. This tends to develop over time.
- The person may continue to misuse alcohol even when they see its effects on themselves or those around them.
Do take note that these are only the basic diagnostic criteria. Many people who suffer from alcoholism experience agitation, anger, and may even have a change in personality when they are intoxicated.
Alcoholism is also generally divided into three stages – this ranges from mild to severe. People with severe alcoholism are in dire need of professional help. Those at a moderate level of alcoholism may still require professional and medical supervision if they’re going to undergo an alcohol detox process.
Mild alcoholism refers to a situation where the person has up to three of the symptoms associated with alcohol use disorder. In such a case, there might not be an urgent need for professional intervention – although, without taking action, the mild case of alcoholism might become more severe over time.
While treatment at an alcohol detox center is preferred for alcoholism, these facilities are not always accessible for everyone. Turning to home remedies might hold some potential. A few OTC medications may prove helpful when a person with a minor drinking problem tries to quit the habit at home. It is, however, important that people understand when a more professional treatment solution is needed.
John Eckelbarger is a Business Development Representative for Stonegate Center. With a BSA in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin, he has an interest in the neurobiology of addiction & pharmacology of drugs. He hopes to bolster Stonegate Center to the forefront of addiction medicine through bold, innovative content. He is currently pursuing his MBA in Finance from Texas Christian University.