3 Medications to Manage Alcohol Withdrawal - Withdrawal

3 Medications to Manage Alcohol Withdrawal

Since alcohol acts like a drug, in-patient detox facilities often administer medications known for their ability to manage the symptoms of withdrawal.

Extended alcohol abuse causes intense chemical changes in the body. Drinking on a daily basis quickly leads to physical addiction and system-wide health problems. When an alcoholic is ready to get clean, detox is the first step toward sobriety.

Since alcohol acts like a drug within the body, professional in-patient detox facilities often administer specific medications known for their ability to manage the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Left untreated, moderate to severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Convulsions
  • Paranoia

Why Choose an In-Patient Detox Program?

People with moderate-to-severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal often require in-patient treatment at a hospital or other treatment facility that treats alcohol withdrawal. In stark contrast to the at-home “cold turkey” process, a medically supervised alcohol detox offers 24/7 care. It also provides access to medications known to curb withdrawal symptoms.

Drugs commonly used to treat alcohol withdrawals include:


Benzodiazepines can calm an overactive mind and stop the symptoms of anxiety from progressing. Two of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines are chlordiazepoxide and diazepam. Chlordiazepoxide (Librium) is preferred for its superior anticonvulsant capabilities, while diazepam (Valium) is preferred for its safety against alcohol overdose.

In a study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, alcohol-related seizures were observed in 1.1 percent of people. However, these seizures were quickly treated with larger doses of benzodiazepines.


Some addictive drugs cause chemical imbalances within the brain, leading to an overwhelming feeling of sadness and depression. Studies conducted on a group of alcoholic patients found 30 percent of the participants also suffered from major depression beyond the detoxification period. Antidepressants can help, as they correct these imbalances and allow the person to see that life really can get better in time.

Anti-Nausea Medications

Addictive drugs tend to lock into receptors inside the brain, but many drugs also have receptors in the stomach and intestine. When the drugs are gone, receptors experience withdrawal symptoms, allowing contractions and pain to take hold. Prescription anti-nausea medications can be vital in soothing discomfort and allowing people to feel at ease as their bodies learn to adjust. One medication, in particular, ondansetron (Zofran), is approved for staving off nausea and cutting back on alcohol intake.

Learn more about the medically-assisted drug and alcohol detox process