What is a treatment for alcohol abuse?

Treating alcohol abuse disorder start by informing a struggling addict that they have a serious problem and they need help.  Once a drinker decides to surrender themselves voluntarily to get treatment, appropriate treatment can be rendered in the in-patient or out-patient medical settings.


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Treatment programs consider alcohol dependence as a chronic disease, a mental health disorder and require the patient to stay sober and refrains from taking alcohol or any other drugs. The main goal of alcohol use disorder treatment is to reduce withdrawal symptoms, manage complications from alcohol use, and undergo behavioral therapy. Initial medical and mental health evaluation will help a medical professional to establish an appropriate treatment option based on the patient’s individual needs.

Inpatient Treatment

Detoxification, a medically supervised procedure for withdrawal symptoms from alcohol.  Detox commonly performed in an inpatient setting to suppress the effects of alcohol, which may include delirium, seizures, agitation, hallucinations, restlessness and even prevent possible life-threatening effects.  Medications may be prescribed to manage cravings, ease withdrawal symptoms, and help the brain to reverse to a normal function by blocking opioid receptors involved in the rewarding effects of drinking and craving for alcohol.

Currently, there are three FDA approved medications used during the detox process: naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram. National Institute on Drug Abuse explains the positive effects of these medications based on the large scale studies.

During a detoxification program the patient may have the following round the clock procedures:

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  • vital signs check: monitoring of blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, testing blood for toxins
  • intravenous fluid and medications intake
  • sedation for comfort purposes until the withdrawal process is completed

Outpatient Treatment

For patients with mild to moderate alcohol use disorders, an outpatient treatment option may be suitable. Daily visits to an outpatient treatment center will be required until the treatment is completed. A patient will need a friend or a relative to oversee and provide support for daily commitments.  During this phase of alcohol addiction treatment, the patient may receive the following procedures:

  • administration of sedatives to help manage withdrawal symptoms
  • vital signs check
  • routine blood work
  • Individual and family counseling to understand the causes of alcohol addiction, and how to manage cravings and triggers
  • treatment for other physical and psychological conditions associated with alcoholism

How to select treatment?

Medical professionals who specialize in treatments of alcohol-related disorders may provide adequate advice and offer various treatment options. They may explain what to expect during the entire phase of the treatment, and what to consider while choosing a treatment program.

Here are some tips on what to ask your recovery provider:

  • What type of treatment does the program offer?  You want to find out if the program offers an evidence-based approach, uses most up to date methods, uses medications assistance, and if any mental health issues may be addressed along with alcohol addiction treatment,
  • Is the treatment designed for patient’s individual needs? Each person is unique, and so should the treatment plan. There is no one fits all type of treatment, and it should be modified upon the patient’s progress and changing needs.
  • What should be expected from you as a patient? You will need to understand what will be required from you, before committing to a treatment program.
  • How is the treatment success calculated? The number of assessments made throughout a treatment program may determine your options.
  • Is there aftercare to assist with relapse prevention?  People in recovery programs are vulnerable to triggers associated with alcohol use. It is important to find out all stages of relapse, such as emotional, mental and physical are addressed in the program.
  • What type of insurance does a provider accept? You will need to check with your alcohol rehab center if they take your insurance, and what is covered. You should also contact your carrier and find out the costs, a co-payment amount, the type of services that are covered under your plan.

It is important to remember, that overcoming alcohol use disorder is an ongoing process, and it may have setbacks. Persistence is critical in overcoming alcohol use disorder. Chronic and relapsing nature of this disease causes many recovering alcoholics to experience recurrences, triggers, and relapses. Relapse is an adverse part of the process, even for those who completed their rehab program. Relapse may take place during stress, or being around people or places that remind a recovering addict of alcohol use.

The most important thing is to keep trying! Continued follow up with your treatment provider is crucial to achieving a successful recovery.

Mental Health Issues and Alcohol Use Disorder

When you are evaluated for your drinking problem it is important to address any additional medical and mental health issues. Many individuals with alcohol use disorder suffer from some type of depression or anxiety.  It is called a co-occurring disorder. Your medical practitioner should address both issues in determining the course of action for your alcohol use disorder treatment.