Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse
Various treatment options for alcohol abuse and for alcohol addiction work in diverse ways for different
people. Like any long-term disease, however, there are different levels of success concerning treatment.
Regarding alcohol abuse treatment, however, one thing is unmistakably clear: the longer an individual
refrains from drinking alcohol, the more likely he or she will be able to remain sober and avoid
Traditional Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Treatment
There are a number of traditional alcoholism treatment approaches that are relatively well established.
Detoxification. Alcohol detoxification is the process of letting the body rid itself of alcohol
while managing the withdrawal symptoms in a safe environment. This form of treatment is usually done under the
supervision of a medical practitioner and is often the first step in an alcoholic treatment program.
Behavioral Treatments such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Motivation Enhancement Therapy, and
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Interestingly, a study administered by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that
each of these behavioral treatment therapies significantly reduced drinking in patients the year after
On the other hand, the NIAAA did not find that any one of these treatment approaches was "the best" or the most
Specific Alcohol Abuse Treatment Options
The form of alcohol abuse and alcoholism treatment you receive depends on a number of factors:
- The severity of your condition
- The resources available in your community
- The ability and knowledge of your health care practitioner
- Whether you want to involve yourself with traditional alcoholism approaches or alternative treatment
- Your personal health care coverage
- Whether you have the financial resources for your choice of treatment
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Alcoholics Anonymous is a mutual support program for recovering alcoholics
that is based on the 12-steps of recovery that are needed in order stay sober. Help and support are provided by the
meetings that meet on a regular basis.
While AA has proven to be an effective therapeutic approach, most practitioners outside of AA, as well as many
people within AA, find that Alcoholics Anonymous works best when combined with other forms of treatment, including
medical care and psychotherapy.
Motivation Enhancement Therapy (MET) is a systematic therapeutic approach that is almost diametrically
opposed to AA in that it uses motivational strategies to activate the client's own change resources. Some of the
key characteristics of MET are the following:
- Helping the client achieve self-efficacy or a sense of optimism
- Providing feedback regarding the personal risks or damage associated with the abuse
- Emphasis on taking personal responsibility for positive change
- Receiving clear advice to make healthy changes
- Providing the client with a number of alternative change options
- Therapist empathy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). There are several forms of cognitive behavior therapy. Most of
them, however, have the following commonalties:
- CBT is structured and directive.
- CBT uses the Socratic Method that is based on the asking of questions for insight.
- CBT approaches are based on the cognitive model of emotional response. That is, if we change the way we
think, we can act and feel better, even if the situation doesn't change.
- Homework is a central feature of CBT.
- CBT usually has therapeutic sessions that are briefer and fewer in number than most other forms of
- In CBT, a solid therapeutic relationship is necessary but not the primary focal point for effective
- CBT is a mutually shared effort between the therapist and the client.
- CBT is based on an educational model that views most emotions and behavioral reactions as learned
responses. Thus, the therapeutic goal in to help the client unlearn undesirable reactions and emotions and
replace them with new and more positive ways of feeling and reacting.
- CBT theory and techniques rely on the Inductive Method. This method has clients look at their thoughts as
hypotheses (or suggested explanations) that can be tested and questioned. If clients discover that their
hypotheses are incorrect, they can then change their thoughts and feelings to be more in line with reality.
- CBT is based on stoic philosophy. CBT does not tell clients how they should feel. Rather, this form of
therapy focuses on helping clients learn how to think more logically and effectively.
Therapeutic Medications. This treatment approach centers on the client taking doctor-prescribed
medications such as naltrexone (ReViaT) or disulfiram (Antabuse) in an attempt to help prevent the person from
returning to drinking after he or she has alcohol consumption.
Antabuse is a drug given to alcoholics that elicits negative effects such as flushing, dizziness, vomiting, and
nausea if alcohol is ingested. Antabuse is effective mainly because it is a strong deterrent.
Naltrexone (ReViaT), on the other hand, targets the brain's reward circuits and is effective because it reduces
the craving the client has for alcohol.
Outpatient Counseling. There are various approaches to counseling that teach alcoholics how to
become aware of the emotional and situational hot buttons that trigger their drinking.
Armed with this information, clients can then learn about different ways in which they can cope with their
feelings and situations that do not include the use of alcohol. These types of therapies are typically offered on
an outpatient basis.
Counseling. Because the recovery process is so intimately tied to the support the client
receives from his or her family, numerous alcohol dependency programs include family counseling and marital
counseling as key components in the treatment process.
Such therapeutic programs, moreover, may also provide clients with essential community resources, such as
parenting classes, job training, legal assistance, financial management classes, and childcare.
Alternative Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Treatment
Although the research findings are not clear, there are some alternative treatment approaches for alcohol abuse
and alcoholism that are becoming more mainstream and widely used.
Examples include "Drumming out Drugs" (a form of therapy that employs the use of drumming by clients), the
holistic and naturalistic approaches employed by Traditional Chinese Medicine, and various vitamin and supplement
therapies have been proposed as "natural" ways to treat alcohol abuse.
As promising as these alternative approaches are, more research is needed to establish the effectiveness of such
therapeutic approaches to alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
Conclusion: Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse
Diverse treatment options for alcohol abuse and for alcoholism work in different ways for
different people. Like any chronic disease, however, there are different levels of success when it comes to
treatment. For example, some alcoholics totally abstain from drinking and remain sober.
Others who are addicted to alcohol experience relatively long periods of sobriety, and then have a drinking
And still others who are alcohol dependent cannot refrain from drinking for any sustainable time period. With
treatment, however, one thing is clear: the longer a person stays away from alcohol, the more likely he or she will
be able to stay sober and the more likely she or he will be able to avoid alcohol rehabilitation.