According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH), a 2019 study found that almost 15 million people aged 12 and older in the U.S. have alcohol use disorder. If left untreated, this disease can lead to serious physical and mental health problems and even the risk of death. One of the greatest difficulties with overcoming alcohol addiction is that it often comes with intense withdrawal symptoms. As individuals go through a painful, challenging detox, they may find themselves wanting to give up. Luckily, the medical community has found an existing drug called prazosin that’s become a popular form of medicated assisted treatment for alcohol. Keep reading for a complete breakdown of the developing relationship between prazosin and alcohol treatment.
What Is Prazosin?
Prazosin was originally created as a medication to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) and is still used for that today. However, it was discovered that prazosin also positively affects individuals in alcohol abuse treatment. The drug seems to reduce the impact of a person’s withdrawal symptoms so they can reduce or stop drinking.
It may seem like prazosin is the “new drug for alcoholics,” but it’s actually been used for almost a decade now. And while only a handful of studies show the effectiveness of the medicine as an alcohol craving medication, the indications to date are promising.
Interestingly enough, prazosin isn’t only being used to treat alcohol use disorder. In recent years, mental health professionals have started to prescribe prazosin to treat some psychiatric disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Prazosin and Alcohol
Prazosin is an alpha1 antagonist. It’s theorized that the medicine might “mitigate the reward pathway via a blockade of norepinephrine.” So, what does that mean in nonscientific terms? Well, alcohol abuse disorder is a disease of the brain, and prazosin can disrupt the brain messages so withdrawal symptoms don’t feel as strong. Additionally, it can reduce the craving for alcohol.
Does Prazosin Work?
Let’s look at two major studies reviewing how prazosin and alcohol use disorder work together. Both of these studies found positive results in reducing the intensity of withdrawal symptoms.
In 2018, the Journal of Addiction Medicine published a study that examined 26 patients over six weeks. Patients were either given 160 mg of prazosin or a placebo and evaluated to see how it impacted their alcohol use. The study found that the drug seemed to decrease the number of alcoholic drinks individuals had per week. However, with such a small sample size, it’s difficult to determine if this study is conclusive on a larger scale.
Another 2018 study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, followed 92 patients over the course of 12 weeks. Random patients in the trial were given 8 mg of prazosin at bedtime. The results found that the patients who received prazosin saw a decrease in the number of drinks per week and the number of heavy drinking days per week.
Both studies were small, and while showing promising results, more research has to be done in this area.
How To Get Prazosin for Alcohol Use Disorder
Prazosin is a prescription drug that comes as an oral capsule. It’s available under the name brand Minipress, as well as in generic versions.
To acquire prazosin, you’ll need to have a prescription. If you’re receiving treatment for an alcohol use disorder, your doctor or psychiatrist might suggest this medicine is right for you.
Additionally, some individuals receive prazosin while going through medicated withdrawal in a rehabilitation center. However, note that not all rehabilitation centers offer medication-assisted withdrawal, so you’ll want to ask about this option before enrollment.
Notably, prazosin is also an affordable drug, making it accessible to more people.
Problems With Prazosin for Treating Alcoholism
It’s quite common for rehab centers to offer inpatient detox programs (for any substance) that include appropriate medications during detox. These medications (one of which is prazosin) can help keep the patient comfortable and avoid the risk of relapse during withdrawal. Continued use of prazosin can help reduce the patient’s desire for alcohol.
However, it should be noted that, like many types of medications, prazosin isn’t going to have the same effect on every individual. Some people might find their withdrawal symptoms and cravings significantly reduced with prazosin, making it easier to avoid the temptation of relapse. And others may find that the medicine has a minimal impact — or no impact at all!
The lesson to be learned here is that no one can rely on prazosin alone. And no doctor or rehab center helping someone through addiction treatment would advise medicine be the only course of action. Addiction is a complex disease that should be treated with therapy and can benefit from additions like medication and addiction education.
Most patients won’t know if prazosin will help them until they try it for themselves. Under professional medical supervision, you can try prazosin and see if it has a positive impact. If it doesn’t work, other types of medicines may be suitable. Acamprosate, disulfiram and naltrexone are some of the other most popular medications for alcohol use disorder. Or, if drugs aren’t seeming to work, you may rely solely on a combination of therapy and education.
For most people, prazosin is worth testing out. One study found that approximately 90% of alcoholics relapse at some point. Those who relapse often feel shame and can struggle to get back into treatment. If medication-assisted treatment can reduce the chance of relapse, it’s an option worth exploring.
Medication-assisted treatment has been proven to be incredibly beneficial in addiction treatment, including:
- Improved patient survival
- Longer retention in treatment programs
- Increased individual’s ability to acquire and hold a job
You can talk to your doctor to better understand if prazosin is right for you.
FHE Health Offers Medication-Assisted Treatment
FHE Health believes in treating addiction with evidence-based practices and technologies. All patients interested in trying medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can be evaluated and enrolled in our MAT Program. Treatment is a personalized choice and should be adapted at each patient’s level to fit their needs. To find out more about FHE Health’s MAT options, contact us today by calling (833) 596-3502.