What medications are used for a detox?

Medications used in an alcohol detoxification process

LIBRIUM, and related benzodiazepines such as Valium, Ativan, Dalmane, Klonopin, Xanax, Restoril, Serax, Centrax, etc.


The benzodiazepines are Central Nervous System Depressants, classes as sedativehypnotics or anti-anxiety agents.


They are used to reduce anxiety and tension, agitation and skeletal muscle spasms to relieve insomnia (Dalmane and Restoril).


Adverse Effects:                               Drowsiness, dizziness, headache, confusion, hostility, restlessness, psychosis, suicidal tendencies, decreased Mood pressure, increased heart rate, dry mouth, nausea and vomiting, constipation, urine retention, or incontinence.


CLONIDINE (CATAPRES) patch or tablet.

Clonidine is actually an antihypertensive, but is also used for suppression of certain abstinence symptoms in narcotic withdrawal and serves somewhat as an antagonist, like Narcan.


Adverse Effects:                                             Drowsiness, sedation, fatigue, headache, nervousness, vivid dreams, orthostatic hypotension (falling blood pressure upon standing up), slowed heart rate, constipation, nausea and vomiting, dry mouth, urine retention, itching (patch), and increased blood pressure if stopped suddenly.



Opioid partial-agonist that stabilizes the level of opiates in the bloodstream. These drugs are used to decrease the effects of opiate withdrawal and eliminate cravings for opiates.


Adverse Effects:                                              Use of these medications to close to last use of opiate may cause client to experience immediate onset of acute withdrawal symptoms. Has abuse potential.


RISPERDAL, ZYPREXA, NAVANE are antipsychotics.

In general, the antipsychotics take several weeks to become effective against psychotic symptoms, but some are useful in the shorter term for severe agitation.

Adverse Effects:                                Adverse Effects: Sedation, dizziness, orthostatic hypotension, increased heart rate, blurred vision, dry mouth, constipation, urine retention, extra sensitivity to sun, rash, increased appetite, etrapyramidal reactions (involuntary restlessness, jumpiness, twitching), tardive dyskinesia (automatic muscular movements such as tongue-thrusting), life-threatening blood disorders (possibly indicated by fever, sore throat, infection and weakness), and rarely, Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome (fever, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, profuse sweating), which can be fatal.



PROZAC, ZOLOFT, PAXIL, EFFEXOR are one type of antidepressants.

This group of antidepressants is known as the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRI’s. Most take 2 to 4 weeks to gain full effect, although Effexor has a shorter onset


Adverse Effects:                                                 As a group, this type of antidepressant has fewer side effects than others. Occasionally there maybe nausea, insomnia, drowsiness, anxiety, heart palpitations, constipation, dry mouth, change in appetite, urinary problems, increased sweating, rash


SSRI’s should not be combined with medications containing dextromethorphan,

an OTC cough suppressant. For example, do not combine Prozac with Dimetapp DM.



ANAFRANIL, SINEQUAN, TRAZODONE, TOFRANIL are also antidepressants, known as tricyclics.


This group has been in use longer than the SSRI’s and has a greater rate of side effects. Onset of therapeutic effect may take 2 to 4 weeks or longer.

Adverse Effects:                                            Drowsiness, dizziness, orthostatic hypotension (dizziness and fall in blood pressure on standing up), excitation, tremors, weakness, confusion, headache, nervousness, rapid heart rate, blurred vision, riming in ears, dry mouth, constipation, nausea and vomiting, urine retention, rash, extra sensitivity to sun, increased sweating.


WELLBUTRIN is also an antidepressant, but of a different type than either of the above groups.


In addition to its antidepressant effect, which may take 2 to 4 weeks or longer to be noticed, this medication is sometimes used to help alleviate cravings.

Adverse Effects                                              This medication may have the same adverse effects listed for the previous groups of antidepressants. In addition, here may be euphoria, delusions, faintness, arthritis, fever and chills, and SEIZURES (especially if combined with alcohol).



An anticonvulsant may be prescribed for alcohol withdrawal, particularly if there is a history of seizures.


Adverse Effects:                                                 Drowsiness, dizziness, staggering, slurred speech, confusion, nervousness, twitching, headache, heart arrhythmias, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, rash, agitation.


These medications should not be discontinued abruptly, but should be tapered off.


ROBAXIN (methocarbamol) is a skeletal muscle relaxant.


Adverse Effects:                                            Drowsiness, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting, metallic taste, discoloration of urine, rash.

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