Medications Used for Drug & Alcohol Detox

For some people, going through detoxication (or “detox”) from alcohol or drugs may result in withdrawal symptoms, which can occur when a substance is reduced or eliminated from the body.1 For people going through alcohol or drug detox, medications can be helpful.

Continue reading to learn more about what detox is, common withdrawal symptoms, what drugs are used to help detox, and the effectiveness of detox medications.

What Is Medical Detox?

Detox is the process of removing toxins, such as alcohol or other drugs, from the body. The goal of detox is to reduce physical consequences related to substance use and minimize medical complications.1 

When a person is in detox, medical professionals may use certain interventions to help manage symptoms associated with acute intoxication and/or withdrawal.1

Common Withdrawal Symptoms

Different substances can produce varied withdrawal symptoms; however, some withdrawal symptoms are common across different types of drugs and alcohol withdrawal. Some common withdrawal symptoms include:1

  • Increased or decreased appetite.
  • Changes in mood such as increased anxiety, irritability, or depression.
  • Physical discomfort.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Sleep difficulties.
  • Restlessness.

The duration and intensity of withdrawal symptoms are often associated with the amount and length of time a person misused the substance or substances.2

Although the symptoms in the above list are common withdrawal symptoms, not every person going through detox will have them.

Common Medications Used in Drug & Alcohol Detox

There are several prescription medications that medical professionals may administer as drug withdrawal treatments, to help minimize a patient’s discomfort during detox.

Generally, a person taking medications that can be habit-forming (such as benzodiazepines or buprenorphine) is closely monitored by a medical professional. There are a variety of detox medications available both narcotic and nonnarcotic.

There are benefits to including the appropriate medication in a patient’s overall treatment plan. For example, medical supervision and administration of certain medications can help reduce life-threatening medical complications that could arise and be fatal if the person was left untreated.1

Common detox medications include:


Anticonvulsant drugs are prescribed to help prevent seizures. They can be a helpful component of alcohol detox by reducing alcohol withdrawal seizures. Anticonvulsant drugs can also help reduce cravings for alcohol.4

Some commonly prescribed anticonvulsants used in alcohol detox include:4

  • Carbamazepine.
  • Valproic acid.
  • Gabapentin.
  • Vigabatrin.


Benzodiazepines are typically prescribed by medical professionals to help manage a person’s anxiety symptoms. They also may be used to help manage the severity of alcohol or benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome.4

Benzodiazepines can help reduce alcohol or benzodiazepine withdrawal symptom severity, as well as the occurrence of seizures and delirium tremens, when administered promptly when a person is in or at risk of alcohol or benzodiazepine withdrawal.3,1

Some commonly used benzodiazepines for the treatment of alcohol or benzodiazepine detoxification include:4

  • Librium (chlordiazepoxide).
  • Valium (diazepam).
  • Ativan (lorazepam).
  • Oxazepam.


Methadone is often used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan in medically supervised withdrawal from opioids. It is approved for the treatment of opioid use disorder and can be used for a long duration, not just the withdrawal phase.5

Methadone works by decreasing cravings for opioids and lessens opioid withdrawal symptoms. It can also prevent people who are addicted to prescription pioids from using  illicit opioids such as heroin.5


Phenobarbital is a barbiturate anticonvulsant sometimes used for sedative and alcohol withdrawal. However, its use is becoming increasingly rare.

Barbiturates like phenobarbital can be highly addictive, and taking too much of them (i.e., a phenobarbital overdose) can be fatal. Use should be closely monitored by a medical professional.


Buprenorphine works by reducing symptoms of opioid withdrawal and cravings. It can help block the euphoric effects people often experience when taking illicit opioids. Other benefits of buprenorphine include increased safety in opioid overdoses and decrease the risk for opioid misuse.5,6


Subutex is a brand name for buprenorphine. It is commonly confused with Suboxone, but it is not the same medication. Suboxone’s main ingredient is buprenorphine, but it also contains naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal agent. Suboxone may only be used once a person no longer has opioids in their system.

Post-Detox Medications

Some medications (including methadone and buprenorphine) may be prescribed as part of ongoing addiction treatment for opioid use disorder.7,8

There are also several medications (acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone) approved to treat alcohol use disorder that may not be initiated until detox is complete.3

Addiction treatment medications can be used for months, years, or indefinitely to help those in recovery from alcohol and opioid addiction stay in recovery.5

Detox from Drugs & Alcohol at Oxford Treatment Center

If you or a loved one has an addiction to drugs or alcohol and want more information about medications for drug detox, our team at Oxford Treatment Center is ready to help.

Reach out to our inpatient drug and alcohol rehab center in Mississippi right now to learn more about addiction treatment admissions, payment options for addiction treatment, and insurance coverage for rehab.

Or take the first step toward recovery by verifying your insurance and filling out this secure

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