Taking a pill or a shot seems like an easy way to overcome alcohol addiction, right? Of course it does, but unfortunately, there is no easy solution and no single pill will do the job for you. Alcohol addiction is a chronic disease of the brain that affects more than 15 million adults in the United States.1 If you’re one of the many addicted people, several over-the-counter products can help you stop drinking alcohol.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Products that Can Help You Stop Drinking
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are drugs that you can purchase directly from a store without a prescription from a doctor. Unlike with prescription medications, you don’t need a valid prescription from a doctor to legally get these drugs. Common types of OTC drugs include Tylenol, Motrin, and Claritin.
While there are no recommended over-the-counter drugs that will help you stop drinking, there are many OTC products and supplements that can help relieve symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, combat cravings, and improve your mood.
If you’re addicted to alcohol and you consume large of amounts of it regularly, when you stop, you may experience symptoms like tremors, dizziness, insomnia, anxiety, depression, impaired cognitive thinking, and memory problems. These are all symptoms of alcohol withdrawal that are largely caused by nutritional deficiencies.
By replenishing your body with the essential nutrients for recovery, you can reduce the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms and fight off cravings more effectively. Here are some of the best OTC products and supplements for alcohol withdrawal.
B-vitamins are essential for mental and emotional health, but many people who suffer from alcohol use disorder don’t have enough of these essential nutrients in their bodies. Taking B-vitamin supplements can help rid your body of toxins left behind from alcohol abuse and improve your mood. Eating a well-balanced diet that includes whole grains, lean meats, leafy green vegetables, and healthy fats will help replenish your body’s supply of B-vitamins too.2,3
Your body naturally produces the amino acid known as l-glutamine, but consuming large amounts of alcohol can affect the way l-glutamine is produced and absorbed. Taking a supplement can help restore your body’s natural chemistry, relieve feelings of depression, and improve your ability to manage cravings while you detox from alcohol.4
According to a recent study, kudzu extract is extremely helpful in reducing alcohol intake.5 Kudzu extract is a Chinese remedy that is used to treat diabetes, the common cold, and menopausal symptoms, among other medical issues. Just a single dose has also been shown to reduce binge drinking episodes and help heavy drinkers cut back.6 However, like all supplements, kudzu extract is not heavily regulated, so it’s important to be cautious about where you buy it and communicate with your doctor to determine an appropriate dose.
Alcoholics are often driven to take another drink because they feel depressed, lethargic, tired, and anxious. These symptoms are usually exacerbated by a lack of important vitamins and minerals. Chronic drinking only makes this worse and further depletes the body of the resources it needs to function well.
If you’re trying to get sober, simply taking a multivitamin can help reduce feelings of depression, give you more energy, improve your appetite, reduce cognitive and memory problems, and improve the appearance of your skin, which can serve as additional motivation to kick your drinking habit for good.7
Most multivitamins available at Walmart, Target, CVS, Walgreens (and many other stores) will contain the essential vitamins and minerals that will help you recover from alcohol addiction, including vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, and magnesium.
Prescription Medications That Can Help You Stop Drinking
In addition to the OTC products listed above, several prescription medications can also help you stop drinking alcohol.8 If you enroll in a medical detox program, your doctor provider may administer some of these drugs to help you cope with the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, reduce cravings, and promote ongoing abstinence from alcohol.
Certain benzodiazepines may be used to help reduce and treat mild to severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, seizures, and insomnia.9 In most cases, a doctor will administer a benzodiazepine such as Librium, Ativan, or Valium to help you cope with alcohol withdrawal and remain comfortable throughout the detox process. Then, he or she will likely gradually taper the dosage to prevent withdrawal symptoms and reduce the likelihood that you will become dependent on the benzodiazepines themselves.
One of the main benefits of naltrexone (Vivitrol) is that you can take it while you’re still drinking and you don’t have to detox first. It works by suppressing alcohol cravings and blocking the reinforcing effects of alcohol. It can be taken in tablet form once daily or it may be administered in a once-monthly shot. Common side effects include headaches and nausea. However, if you are also abusing opioids or taking opioid medications for medical purposes, you cannot take naltrexone (Vivitrol).10
Acamprosate (Campral) is a medication that should only be used during detox (once you’ve stopped drinking completely). It works by changing your brain chemistry and reducing your cravings for alcohol. It can be taken as a pill, two or three times daily. Although there are very few side effects of this drug, you may experience some diarrhea.11
Disulfiram (Antabuse) is a daily pill that makes you sick if you try to drink alcohol. While it doesn’t treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms or reduce cravings, it works by preventing the alcohol from being fully metabolized in your body, causing nausea, vomiting, and headache as your body attempts to flush the alcohol.12 Although Antabuse is effective for some people, it’s not considered to be the most effective prescription drug treatment for alcohol abuse.
Other Effective Treatment Methods for Alcohol Addiction
Most addiction treatment experts recommend a combination of medication, holistic treatments, and cognitive behavioral therapy for the most well-rounded treatment of alcohol use disorder. If OTC products or medication alone don’t help you get sober, there are several other effective treatment methods for alcohol addiction that can be used simultaneously.
- Medical detox program – Medical detox provides round-the-clock medical and clinical care in a safe and supportive environment. Detoxing from alcohol on your own at home isn’t safe, but medical detox helps to make alcohol detox a more comfortable and safe process while also drastically reducing the likelihood of relapse.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – Studies show that cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective treatment method that helps people adjust their attitudes and thoughts about substance abuse. CBT works to stop self-destructive behaviors like alcohol abuse and give people the tools and strategies they need to cope with stress and other triggers that normally lead them to drink.
- Support groups – Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Celebrate Recovery, or SMART Recovery can help people adjust to living a sober lifestyle by providing peer support, encouraging regular engagement in a recovery program, and help them find purpose in life once alcohol is no longer a part of the equation.
- Long-term drug rehab program – Long-term addiction treatment lasting at least 90 days has been shown to produce the most positive treatment results for people in recovery.13 Long-term rehab programs provide comprehensive evidence-based treatment for people with alcohol use disorder and a residential program can serve as a safe haven for those with severe or long-lasting addictions.