Are There Over the Counter Medications to Stop Drinking Alcohol?

Last Updated: September 22, 2023

While OTC medications can’t relieve alcohol cravings, combining non-medication options and medicine can support alcohol addiction recovery.

Alcoholism is difficult to overcome on your own, and professional help is often needed. Although it can be tempting to try to find remedies over the counter to help stop drinking, no such treatments have been studied or recommended. As a result, you should talk with your doctor about both non-medications and prescription medications if you want to stay away from alcohol.

Are There Any OTC Medications To Alleviate Alcohol Cravings?

No OTC medications are available to relieve alcohol cravings. The only agents proven to ease cravings are prescriptions like naltrexone and acamprosate. Your doctor can evaluate you to see if you would be a good candidate for these or other medicines to help you recover from alcohol use.

FDA-Approved Medications To Help People Quit Drinking

Many prescription medications can help people quit drinking. Your doctor can prescribe them to reduce your risk of relapse and help you stay away from alcohol. These medications are typically not prescribed during alcohol withdrawal but are usually started to support you after you complete alcohol detox. 

The most common medications to help you stay sober include: 

  • Naltrexone
  • Acamprosate
  • Disulfiram
  • Topiramate

Naltrexone

Naltrexone is a first-choice medication for helping a person stay sober. Data show that naltrexone can help stop alcohol cravings by blocking the brain’s opioid receptors. In alcoholism, the opioid receptors reinforce the pleasurable feelings you get when you drink. Blocking the receptors, in turn, blocks the pleasant effects you get from drinking.

Naltrexone is available both as a once-daily oral tablet and a monthly long-acting injectable drug.

Acamprosate

Acamprosate is another first-choice medication doctors prescribe to help people stay sober. Although experts do not yet know how acamprosate works, they know that it affects the neurotransmitter glutamate, which is involved in cravings, sleep problems and mood swings when you quit drinking. Acamprosate may therefore help a person avoid these effects.

Acamprosate is available as an oral tablet dosed three times daily.

Antabuse (disulfiram)

Doctors tend to reserve disulfiram for those who cannot take naltrexone or acamprosate. The drug motivates you to avoid alcohol because it makes you feel very sick if you drink. Disulfiram works by interfering with the breakdown of alcohol, which causes increased levels of a chemical called acetaldehyde.

Disulfiram is available as a once-daily oral tablet.

Topiramate

Like disulfiram, topiramate is sometimes prescribed to help people stay sober if they cannot take first-choice drugs like naltrexone or acamprosate. Although experts are not sure how topiramate works, research shows that the drug can reduce the number of drinking days a person experiences.

Topiramate is available as a once-daily oral tablet, a capsule, sprinkles or an oral liquid.

Frequently Asked Questions

How effective are OTC meds compared to other methods of quitting drinking?

There are no recommended OTC meds for quitting drinking. Even prescription medications for alcohol recovery need to be closely monitored by a doctor who can quickly adjust their dose to make sure they are effective at preventing cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Is it safe to use OTC meds in combination with other treatments or therapies for alcohol addiction?

You should avoid OTC meds for alcohol addiction unless your doctor or pharmacist specifically tells you to take them. This is due to the potential for drug interactions with other medications, including those prescribed for alcohol use disorder.

Who can benefit from medication for alcoholism?

A person who struggles to stay sober can benefit from medication for alcoholism. Medications can reduce your number of drinking days, motivate you to stay sober and reduce your alcohol cravings. Your doctor can help you choose the medicine that best suits your needs.

Can I quit alcohol without medication?

Medication is one of many tools doctors use to fight alcohol use disorder. Experts also recommend non-medication options like rehab, sober living arrangements, support groups and therapy to help you stay away from alcohol. However, combining these treatments with medication is the most effective way to fight alcohol addiction.

At Orlando Recovery Center, our alcohol addiction experts can help you explore your options when it comes to stopping alcohol. Our medical detox and rehab centers can prescribe medication, if medically appropriate, to help you stay sober and focused on your recovery. Don’t wait: contact us today to learn more.

Sources

Drugs.com. “Disulfiram Monograph for Professionals.” January 23, 2023. Accessed July 3, 2023.

Drugs.com. “Topiramate Monograph for Professionals.” April 26, 2023. Accessed July 3, 2023.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “TIP 49 Incorporating Alcohol Pharmacotherapies Into Medical Practice.” 2009. Accessed July 3, 2023.

American Psychiatric Association. “Practice Guideline for the Pharmacological Treatment of Patients With Alcohol Use Disorder.” 2018. Accessed July 3, 2023.

Pietras, Stefanie; Azur, Melissa; Brown, Jonathan. “Review of Medication-Assisted Treatment Guidelines and Measures for Opioid and Alcohol Use.” Mathematica Policy Research, November 24, 2015. Accessed July 3, 2023.

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