Managing Medication-Assisted Treatment Side Effects for Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comprehensive Guide


Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for alcohol use disorder (AUD) has become increasingly popular to help individuals overcome their addiction to alcohol. MAT involves using prescription medications in combination with therapy and counseling to help patients manage their cravings and stay sober. While MAT can effectively treat AUD, it is essential to note that side effects are common and can impact a patient’s recovery.

In this article, we will discuss how to manage the side effects of MAT for alcohol use disorder. We will cover the most common side effects and provide practical tips to help patients overcome them and stay on track with their recovery.

Common Side Effects of Medication-Assisted Treatment


It’s essential to understand the potential side effects of MAT before starting treatment, so you can be prepared and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Some of the most common side effects of MAT for Alcohol Use Disorder include:

  1. Nausea and vomiting

2. Constipation or diarrhea

3. Dizziness or lightheadedness

4. Headache

Different Medications, Different Side Effects


Several medications are used in MAT for Alcohol Use Disorder, each with its potential side effects. For example:

  1. Acamprosate: This medication helps reduce cravings for alcohol and can cause stomach upset in some people.
  2. Naltrexone: This medication reduces the craving for alcohol and can cause nausea or headache.
  3. Disulfiram: This medication causes severe nausea when combined with alcohol consumption and can lead to weight loss if taken regularly over time.

Prevalence of Side Effects

According to a report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), while MAT is effective for treating moderate to severe AUD and reducing alcohol intake, it may not be appropriate for all patients. Side effects can occur with the use of medications like acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone that are commonly used in MAT for AUD.

While side effects can be bothersome, they are usually mild and go away independently after a few days or weeks. Many patients don’t experience any side effects at all.

How to Manage Side Effects?


If you are undergoing Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for alcohol use disorder, and are experiencing some side effects. Don’t worry. There are several ways to manage these side effects and maintain your journey toward recovery. Here are some practical tips to consider.

  1. Take medication with food or water: Some medications for MAT may cause stomach upset or nausea. Taking your medication with food or water can help alleviate these symptoms.
  2. Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can help you manage side effects like constipation and dry mouth.
  3. Get enough rest: Some medications for MAT can cause drowsiness. If you feel tired, get enough rest and avoid driving or operating heavy machinery.
  4. Embrace lifestyle changes: Healthy lifestyle changes, such as eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and practicing stress management techniques, can help you alleviate side effects and improve your overall well-being.

Remember, managing side effects is an essential part of the recovery journey. With proper care and support, you can successfully handle your side effects and achieve long-term sobriety with MAT for alcohol use disorder.

When to Contact a Healthcare Provider if Side Effects Become Severe

While most side effects are minor and temporary, some can become severe and require immediate medical attention.

Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience chest pain, difficulty breathing, or allergic reactions to your medication. These symptoms could indicate a severe adverse reaction that could potentially be life-threatening.

In addition to physical symptoms, it is also important to communicate any changes or concerns with your healthcare provider throughout the MAT process. This includes discussing any side effects you may be experiencing and working with your provider to modify your treatment plan if necessary.

Abruptly stopping or changing medication without medical supervision can also be dangerous and could potentially lead to withdrawal symptoms or other complications. Working with your healthcare provider to develop a safe and effective treatment plan that meets your unique needs is essential.

If you are undergoing MAT for alcohol use disorder, it is crucial to communicate with your healthcare provider and seek medical attention if any side effects become severe. With proper monitoring and support, you can safely and effectively manage your alcohol use disorder and achieve lasting recovery.

Coping Strategies for Side Effects

To cope with the side effects of an alcohol use disorder, you can try distraction techniques and relaxation exercises. You can also use cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Distraction techniques: These activities help you focus away from negative thoughts and feelings. Examples include listening to music, walking, or doing something creative like painting or writing.

Relaxation exercises involve deep breathing exercises that help reduce anxiety levels by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure. They also promote a sense of calmness by increasing oxygen flow throughout the body while reducing stress hormones.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on identifying unhelpful thought patterns and then challenging them through different methods, such as visualization techniques.

Finding Support for Side Effects of Alcohol Use Disorder


If you’re experiencing side effects of an alcohol use disorder, it’s important to have support. You can find this support in a variety of ways:

  1. Support groups: These are often held in person and are led by trained facilitators who help members share their experiences and learn from one another.
  2. Online forums: There are many online forums where people discuss their experiences with various mental health issues, including those related to substance use disorders like alcoholism and drug addiction.
  3. Self-care and self-compassion practices such as meditation or yoga can help reduce stress levels while promoting relaxation and improving overall well-being.


Medication-assisted treatment is an effective treatment for alcohol use disorder, but side effects are common and can impact a patient’s recovery. Communication with healthcare providers about any side effects experienced during MAT is essential, as there are practical tips to help manage them.

Patients can try distraction techniques, relaxation exercises, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Additionally, finding support through support groups, online forums, and self-care practices is essential.

At Confidant Health, we understand the importance of comprehensive management when it comes to treating alcohol use disorder. We prioritize patient safety and encourage them to seek medical attention if any side effects become severe. Our team works closely with each patient’s healthcare provider to develop a personalized and effective treatment plan that includes medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

We believe that with proper monitoring and ongoing support, patients can successfully manage their side effects and achieve lasting recovery. Our approach to alcohol use disorder treatment is rooted in evidence-based practices and a deep commitment to providing compassionate care. Trust Confidant Health to support you or your loved one on the journey to a healthier, happier life.