Effective Ways to Treat Alcoholism

If you are an alcoholic, you may be reluctant to seek treatment because you do not feel that you have a problem. Your first step is to admit that you have a problem with alcohol. Once you have admitted to yourself and possibly others that you are indeed an alcoholic then you are ready for treatment. Treatment may consist of reducing your alcohol consumption or entering an outpatient or residential drugs and alcohol treatment program. It may also involve individual counseling, family counseling, group counseling and/or spirituality counseling. The primary goal of treatment is to help you stop drinking and to improve the quality of your life.

Treatment for alcoholism may include:


Some treatment programs begin with drug detoxification, also known as drug withdrawal. During this process the toxic effects of the alcohol are purged from your body. Drug detoxification typically takes about a week to complete and it normally occurs at a hospital or a residential treatment center. You may experience hallucinations, disorientation, tremors, agitation, loss of appetite, depression, physical aches and pains and trembling during this time. Some physicians may prescribe a sedation medication to help with the withdrawal symptoms.


Psychotherapy, also referred to as counseling, is another common treatment for alcoholism. Individual, couples, group and family counseling is beneficial during the treatment process because it provides you with a safe environment to confront, work through and resolve past issues, concerns and/or traumas. It also provides you with the support that you so desperately need during this challenging time. It is important that you include your loved ones in the recovery process. Family counseling can help you reconnect with your family and repair the damage that occurred as a result of the alcoholism. Research has shown that a combination of drug detoxification, psychotherapy and medication is the most effective treatment for alcoholism.

Medical Care

Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to serious health concerns. Side-effects of alcoholism may include hypertension (high blood pressure), cirrhosis of the liver, rapid weight gain, dizziness, blackouts, protein in your urine, diabetes, cardiovascular disease (heart disease) renal disease and/or failure (kidney disease or kidney failure). If you suffer from the side-effects of alcoholism, your treatment will also consist of general practitioner or specialist who will help manage your medical care.


Medication is often used during the alcohol treatment process. Medication is used to help wean you off the alcohol and to reduce the side-effects of drug withdrawal. Disulfiram is a common alcohol treatment medication that reduces your craving to drink alcohol. It does not cure alcoholism, but it gradually reduces your dependence on alcohol. Disulfiram decreases your cravings of alcohol by making you ill when you drink it. If you consume alcohol while on Disulfiram, you will experience vomiting, flushing, upset stomach and headaches/migraines.

Another common alcohol treatment medication is Naltrexone. This drug inhibits the “good feelings” that come with drinking alcohol, which in turn reduces your cravings for alcohol. Naltrexone also makes you sick if you drink alcohol while taking it. Acamprosate is also beneficial for treating alcoholism. This drug reduces your urge to drink without making you ill.

Spirituality Counseling

Some alcohol treatment centers include spiritualty into their alcohol treatment process. If you are a spiritual person, including spirituality in the treatment process will help you find strength to complete the program and maintain sobriety. Spirituality counseling may also help you gain a deeper insight into your past and present problems.

Residential Treatment

In some cases, you may need to enter into an impatient residential treatment program. This type of program may consist of drug detox, individual therapy, couples therapy, family therapy, group therapy, life-skills lectures, skill-based activities, family participation, medications, medical care and support groups like Alcoholic Anonymous.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Alcoholism is sometimes treated using motivational enhancement therapy. Motivational enhancement therapy teaches you that you are responsible for your own behaviors and that you have the ability to change how your response and react to certain situations. Your counselor begins the treatment process by getting your to acknowledge that you have a problem and getting you to admit that the alcohol abuse did not solve your problems. During motivational enhancement therapy, you and your counselor work together to discuss the advantages of sobriety, assess your treatment plan and develop a sobriety plan that you can follow once treatment has ended.

Aftercare Programs & Support Groups

It important that you attend support groups (Alcoholic Anonymous) once you have completed your treatment program. Support groups can help you maintain your sobriety, remove yourself from risky situations, avoid your triggers and deal with life’s challenges.


American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Substance-related disorders. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR (4th ed.). Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association.

Esser M. B. (2012). Binge drinking intensity. American Journal of  Preventive Medicine, 42, 625.

Miller, W. R., Zweben, A., DiClemente, C. C., & Rychatrik, R. G. (1995). Motivational enhancement therapy manual. Project     MATCH Monograph Series, 2. Rockville, MD: NIAAA.

NIAAA. (1999). Alcohol alert no. 43: Brief intervention for alcohol problems. Bethesda, MD: Institute.


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