There are many treatment options for alcohol addiction, including brief interventions, individual and group counseling, outpatient programs or a residential inpatient stay. Effective treatment includes working to stop drinking and improve quality of life.
The first step of any treatment program is acknowledging there is a problem. This can happen on its own or it may be prompted by an intervention, in which family and friends bring together the person who has a problem to talk about it. A treatment plan is then set in motion.
If a person is very addicted to alcohol, they may need medical detox, which involves removing the chemical from their body. Detox is usually done at a hospital or an inpatient treatment center. It can take 2 to 7 days and it may require sedating medications to prevent withdrawal symptoms from becoming too severe.
Talk therapy, which can be in the form of individual or group sessions, is a critical part of a treatment program. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people identify and change the negative thoughts and behaviors that lead to heavy drinking. It also teaches people healthier ways to cope with stress and how to develop skills they can use when they are facing triggers that could cause them to drink. CBT is an evidence-based form of therapy.
Other therapies include marital or family counseling, which can help people repair or rebuild relationships that have been damaged by their drinking. Motivational enhancement therapy, which is based on the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, can be used to help encourage and motivate people to quit drinking. It is often conducted by a trained alcohol counselor.
A number of medicines can be used to help with alcohol addiction, such as naltrexone, which blocks the receptors in the brain that make you feel good when you drink, and reduces cravings. Disulfiram, which causes unpleasant, sometimes life-threatening withdrawal symptoms if you drink, is another medicine that discourages alcohol consumption.
Some treatment programs combine professional counseling with a supportive social network. This is known as a therapeutic community. The goal is to teach people how to live without alcohol, and to support them as they reenter daily life with a sober lifestyle.
There are more choices today for getting effective alcohol addiction treatment than ever before. Many insurance companies now cover telehealth, which is phone or video sessions with a health professional. You can find therapists who specialize in alcohol addiction here and use the filter for “telehealth.” You can also check with your doctor to see if they offer this service. Some addiction treatment programs are all-telehealth, which can be a great option for rural areas with few local addiction care providers. Some of these are accredited by the National Accreditation Commission for Addiction Professionals, which is a good sign. See the article on Choosing an Alcohol Addiction Treatment Program for more information about choosing the best treatment for you.