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Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder


Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

The majority of adults in the United States consume alcohol at least once in their lives. However, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH) reports that nearly 16 million adults and adolescents develop a dependence or addiction to alcohol. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines excessive drinking as:

  • Binge drinking/consuming 4 or 5 servings of alcohol in two hours or less

  • Heavy drinking/consuming 1-2 servings of alcohol per day or between 7-14 servings of alcohol per week

  • Alcohol use disorder, which is signified by periods of binge and heavy drinking along with physical dependence on alcohol, cravings, drinking more to achieve the desired effect, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you do not consume alcohol. 

Binge or heavy drinking often leads to physical dependence. In addition, it is an early sign that alcohol use disorder has developed. Many people who struggle with alcohol use disorder (AUD) often require individualized behavioral and medical treatment to maintain sobriety. However, alcohol withdrawal can trigger severe and potentially fatal symptoms which is why Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for alcohol use disorder is a healthy and safe alternative to traditional treatment methods.

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

MAT is a method of drug and alcohol rehab that utilizes medication while simultaneously incorporating behavioral therapy to address substance use disorders. According to SAMHSA, MAT programs can lead to healthier outcomes for clients with alcohol use disorders. MAT programs are customized to address each client’s individual needs. The goal of MAT is to offer quality, tailored care for each individual struggling with a substance use disorder. 

Behavioral therapies such as individual and group counseling are key components of MAT. Each client will begin to discover and address the roots of their addiction while curbing the initial discomfort and cravings that come with recovery. MAT aims to address all potential obstacles that lead to relapse while ensuring clients have the space to focus on the internal, personal work of recovery.

MAT for Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder is a challenging disorder to overcome. Alcohol is legally and conveniently available at local convenience stores, bars, clubs, and liquor stores alike. Americans are exposed to alcohol consumption in movies and advertisements. Furthermore, this foe is ingrained in the daily activities and celebratory experiences of Americans. The combination of the availability and acceptability of consuming alcoholic beverages makes it especially difficult to acknowledge and recover from alcohol addiction.

Some of the most common medications used in MAT for alcohol use disorder are disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate.


Disulfiram is the most effective medication for individuals who have completed the detoxification process and are entering into the early stages of recovery. This specific medication is administered once a day in tablet form. Disulfiram serves as a deterrent by producing unpleasant side effects when/if an individual consumes even the smallest amount of alcohol. These side effects typically include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Chest pains
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing

These uncomfortable side effects generally begin within 10 minutes after ingesting alcohol and often persist for an hour or more. Due to the unpleasant, and sometimes dangerous, side effects, disulfiram is not offered by every treatment center utilizing MAT for alcohol use disorder.


Naltrexone blocks the euphoric effects of alcohol intoxication. The goal of this specific medication is to help individuals disassociate alcohol from pleasurable feelings and experiences. Ultimately, this interaction encourages the individual to maintain his/her commitment to recovery. Administered in tablet (ReVia and Depade) and injectable forms (Vivitrol), naltrexone treatment is most effective in conjunction with behavioral therapy and a comprehensive treatment plan for recovery.


Acamprosate is a medication that is most beneficial for individuals who have worked through the initial phase of detoxification and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This medication is typically administered on the fifth day of abstinence and will reach its full effectiveness within five to eight days after the first dose. Acamprosate is administered in tablet form, three times a day. It reduces cravings while improving an individual’s chances of abstinence when combined with comprehensive therapy and treatment.

The Success of MAT for Alcohol Use Disorder

Recovery from alcohol use disorder is not achieved with a one-size-fits-all modality. Complete abstinence from alcohol may be an effective method for some people. However, this method may not work for everyone and additional help may be required in early recovery.

When referring to evidence-based care, medication-assisted treatment is one of the most beneficial methods available today. Research suggests that MAT for alcohol use disorder is significantly effective in minimizing withdrawal symptoms, mitigating cravings, and improving an individual’s chances of maintaining his/her sobriety. 

Agape Treatment Center is a health and wellness company based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Through our sober living program and in partnership with treatment facilities across South Florida and community partners, we provide exceptional wellness to clients and their family members suffering from substance use disorders, trauma, and behavioral health disorders. 

At Agape, we implement a comprehensive approach when treating alcohol use disorder. We here at Agape take mental health issues of all varieties very seriously and provide a safe, nurturing environment. We help individuals learn about the disorders plaguing them from an emotionally unstable life. Our licensed mental health clinicians will fully assess an individual that seems, feels, or has been previously diagnosed with a mental health disorder, and meet them exactly where they are in life. Developing a comprehensive plan of action that encourages healthy and adaptive techniques helps individuals address their alcohol use disorder.

Call the Agape Treatment Center admissions team at 888-614-0077 to learn more about what our addiction and mental health facilities can do for you or your loved one.

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