Alcoholism Treatment

This article will provide a brief overview of alcoholism treatment options, so you can make an informed decision on which recovery path is best for you.

What Is Alcoholism?

If you have been struggling with alcohol addiction, it can be challenging to know where to start. Finding the right alcohol addiction treatment plan is vital. Alcoholism impacts nearly every aspect of life, including relationships, work performance, and mental health. But there is hope! Read on to learn the details of alcoholism treatment.

Alcoholism is a disease that affects more than fifteen million Americans. It is the third most common chronic illness for men, after hypertension and obesity. The term “alcoholism” describes a chronic, progressive disease in which the person’s ability to control the use of alcohol is impaired. Excessive drinking can lead to severe liver disease, heart disease, cancer, brain damage, depression, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, stroke, high blood pressure, and even death.


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When Is It Time for Treatment?

If your or your loved one’s drinking habits negatively affect your or their life, it might be time to consider alcohol addiction treatment. The sooner an alcohol use disorder is identified, the better for everyone involved.
Does Treatment Work?
The good news is that, yes, alcoholism treatment works. Regardless of whether the addiction is mild or severe, most people dealing with alcohol use disorder can benefit from some form of therapy, such as inpatient care and behavioral therapy. According to research, one-third of people who received alcohol addiction treatment experienced no further symptoms one year after treatment. Others report reduced drinking and fewer problems related to alcohol use.1
Signs of Alcoholism

The most common signs of alcoholism include:

Alcoholism Treatment Options

Alcoholism treatment options are not limited to inpatient care and cognitive-behavioral therapy. In fact, there is a range of other treatment options, such as partial hospitalization and brief interventions. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, the best type of treatment for a patient depends on their life circumstances and the severity of the addiction.

Alcohol Detoxification

Alcohol detoxification is a process that helps manage withdrawal symptoms and prepare the individual for addiction treatment. Detox offers a safe, effective way to address alcohol addiction without jeopardizing one’s mental and physical health.

Residential or Inpatient Treatment Programs

Inpatient treatment programs typically involve living 24/7 at a residential facility. This type of alcohol addiction treatment is appropriate for those with a severe case of alcohol use disorder. The goal of inpatient treatment is to provide twenty-four-hour supervision and monitoring, so the client can focus on their recovery without the added pressure of daily responsibilities.

In addition, inpatient alcoholism treatment programs offer comprehensive services that address all aspects of alcoholism, including medical care, psychiatric support, family counseling, and individual therapy.

Outpatient Treatment Programs

Outpatient treatment is the most common form of alcohol addiction treatment. These programs usually involve a combination of group and individual therapy sessions and frequent follow-ups with a therapist.

Outpatient treatment is usually less expensive than its inpatient counterpart and provides patients with an opportunity to continue working and maintaining their social life outside of the program. However, outpatient programs do not offer twenty-four-hour care or monitoring, which can be difficult for those with severe alcoholism.

There are several types of outpatient treatment programs, including:

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)

PHP is a program that lets people with an alcohol addiction attend rehab during the day and then go home at night. It can be a good option for people who need alcohol addiction treatment but do not want to stay in a traditional inpatient program. The main benefit of PHP is that it allows patients to continue their work and maintain relationships while they receive treatment.

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)

IOP programs are relatively short, lasting anywhere from three to five months on average. Users attend the program for one to two hours per day, three to five days a week. The intensity of these programs varies. Some are more intense with longer hours, while others involve longer breaks between sessions.

Standard Outpatient Treatment (OP)

The main difference between IOP and standard OP is that standard OP programs require patients to attend treatment only one to three days per week for sessions that last from one to three hours. Standard OP usually lasts for several months.

Behavioral Therapies

Alcoholism treatment
The goal of behavioral therapies is to help patients abstain from alcohol, change their negative behaviors, and develop critical life skills to deal with stressful life situations that may trigger intense cravings.
The most common behavioral therapies include:

Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that is used to treat addiction. This treatment usually requires sixteen sessions during which patients learn how to make small changes in their lives.
CBT is the best treatment for alcoholism because it focuses on the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Its goal is to identify negative thinking patterns related to alcohol abuse and learn healthy skills to help them cope with difficult situations without resorting to drinking.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) is a cognitive behavioral therapy that helps patients change their thoughts and behaviors. The goal of MET is to find the reasons why someone drinks and develop new coping skills to help them manage stress in healthy ways.

MET can be conducted in an individual or group setting and is typically conducted in twelve sessions. Patients who participate in MET drink less after treatment and have a decreased chance of relapse. One of the drawbacks is that it may not be as effective for patients with more severe alcohol use disorders.

Marital and Family Counseling

Marital and family counseling includes the patient’s spouse and other family members in the alcohol abuse treatment process. The role of the family in alcohol recovery is critical. Studies have shown that patients with strong family support are more likely to maintain abstinence than patients undergoing individual alcohol counseling.

Brief Interventions

Brief interventions are short, one-on-one treatment approaches designed to help people who drink in harmful or abusive ways. One of the reasons for their popularity is that they can be done in one to four short alcohol counseling sessions with a trained interventionist. Brief interventions aim to help patients lower their alcohol consumption to sensible levels and eliminate harmful drinking practices like binge drinking.

Abstinence may also be encouraged, if appropriate. These brief interventions are not considered a substitute for traditional forms of addiction treatment but can introduce more intensive therapy. There are many different types of brief interventions, but the most common ones involve education and motivational interviewing.


Oral Medications

Three oral medications are currently approved to treat alcohol addiction, including naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram. These three alcoholism medications have been shown to help patients reduce drinking, avoid relapse, and maintain abstinence. Which alcoholism medication should be prescribed to a patient depends on clinical judgment and patient preference.

Patients experiencing intense cravings or “slips,” and those who failed to respond to psychosocial approaches are strong candidates for medication treatment. Patients who abstain from consuming alcohol while receiving oral medication treatment are likely to have better outcomes than patients who fail to abstain from alcohol.

Considering the risk for relapse is very high in the first six to twelve months after quitting alcohol, patients should take oral medications for at least three months.

Injected Medications

One injectable alcoholism medication is currently approved for alcoholism treatment: extended-release injectable naltrexone. According to one study, extended-release injectable naltrexone resulted in a 25% reduction in the proportion of heavy drinking days compared with a placebo.2

Aftercare and Long-Term Health

Aftercare is an important part of recovery. The initial challenges of transitioning from an addictive lifestyle are daunting for anyone struggling with addiction. Aftercare provides a critical opportunity to support newly recovered individuals as they navigate these difficulties and establish new habits that will improve their quality of life.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 90% of people with alcoholism relapse within four years after completing alcohol dependence treatment.3 Luckily, there are many programs, resources, and organizations that aim to help recovering alcoholics remain sober. Many rehab facilities offer aftercare program services such as sober-living arrangements, follow-up therapy, medical evaluations, and alumni support groups.

Therapy and counseling are also recommended for newly sober former alcoholics. They attend daily therapy and alcohol counseling sessions in inpatient rehab facilities.

Therapy and counseling for newly sober

Mutual-Support Groups

Mutual support groups are meetings of peers who provide each other with emotional support, understanding, and encouragement. The goal of these groups is to help one another move away from drug addiction and alcoholism. There are many reasons people attend mutual support groups. Some people find it difficult to stop drinking or using drugs on their own, so they come for help.

Others may feel more comfortable talking about their addiction issues in a small group than with just one person. Some people attend meetings only when they feel like their sobriety is threatened or compromised by stress or other life events that trigger cravings or relapse. The most well-known mutual support groups are 12-Step groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

Frequently Asked Questions About Alcoholism Treatment

What Types of Professionals Are Involved in Treatment?

There are many different types of professionals involved in the alcohol abuse treatment process. Addiction treatment providers are usually doctors or medical professionals specializing in addiction medicine. Alcohol use disorder treatment may also come from licensed psychologists, therapists, pharmacists, social workers, and nurses.

What Is the Cure Rate for Alcoholism?

According to research, around 36% of people suffering from alcoholism recover after one year. Approximately 60% of individuals who are sober for two years after alcohol use disorder remain that way. The majority of former alcoholics who abstain from alcohol for five years and over remain sober.

Can the Brain Heal Itself From Alcohol?

Studies have shown that the brain can heal itself quickly once a person stops consuming alcohol. The area of the brain that shrinks from alcohol abuse, called grey matter, starts reversing within two weeks after stopping alcohol use.

What Can I Drink Instead of Alcohol?

If you are trying to avoid alcohol, there are many other things you can drink instead. Some non-alcoholic drink options include tea, sparkling water, coconut water, herb-infused water, juice, coffee, Kombucha, booze-free beer, and mocktails.