Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse


The different treatment options for alcoholism and alcohol abuse work in diverse ways for different people.

Regarding the drinking of alcohol, however, one thing is certain: the longer a person stays away from alcohol or always drinks in moderation, the more likely he or she will be able to steer clear of alcohol rehab.

Traditional Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Treatment

The following represents a number of traditional alcohol abuse and alcoholism treatment approaches that are relatively well established.

Detoxification. Alcohol detoxification is the process of letting the body rid itself of alcohol while managing and controlling the withdrawal symptoms in a safe atmosphere.

This form of treatment, moreover, is usually done under the supervision of a medical practitioner and is often the first step employed in an alcoholic treatment program.

Behavioral Treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivation Enhancement Therapy, and Alcoholics Anonymous.

It should be pointed out that 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 treatment.

The NIAAA, however, did not find that any one of these methodologies was “the best” or the most effective.

Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Treatment Options

The kind of alcoholism and alcohol abuse treatment you receive depends on a number of factors:

  • The severity of your condition
  • The resources available in your community
  • Whether you want to involve yourself with traditional alcoholism approaches or alternative treatment options
  • Your personal health care coverage
  • Whether you have the financial resources for the treatment of choice

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A Treatment Option

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the mainstream alcohol abuse and alcoholism treatment options that is available to problem drinkers.

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 therapy.
  • In CBT, a solid therapeutic relationship is necessary but not the primary focal point for effective therapy.
  • 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.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Alcoholics Anonymous is another recovery option for people who suffer from alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a mutual support program for recovering alcoholics and alcohol abusers that is based on the 12-steps of recovery that are needed in order to 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 alcohol abuse and alcoholism treatment, including medical care and psychotherapy.

Motivation Enhancement Therapy (MET)

Motivation Enhancement Therapy is a systematic therapeutic approach that is almost diametrically opposed to Alcoholics Anonymous in that it uses motivational strategies to activate the client’s own change resources.

Motivation Enhancement Therapy is a well known alcohol abuse and alcoholism treatment approach that includes some of the following key characteristics:

  • 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

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. This form of treatment can be used with alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

Antabuse is a drug given to alcoholics or alcohol abusers 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. Outpatient counseling is an effective alcohol abuse and alcoholism treatment approach that typically helps alcohol abusers and 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 alcoholism and alcohol abuse rehab 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 Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse 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 alcoholism and alcohol abuse approaches are, more research is needed to establish the effectiveness of such therapeutic approaches to alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

Conclusion: Alcohol Abuse Treatment

Key Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse Information. The different treatment options for alcohol abuse and alcoholism work in diverse ways for different people.

Similar to any chronic disease, nonetheless, there are varying degrees of success regarding treatment.

For example, some alcoholics and alcohol abusers refrain from drinking and remain sober.

Other alcohol abusers and alcoholics, conversely, experience relatively long periods of sobriety, and then experience a drinking relapse.

And still other alcoholics and alcohol abusers cannot abstain from drinking for any sustainable amount of time.

With alcohol treatment, however, one thing is assured: the longer an individual stays away from alcohol, the more likely he or she will be able to stay sober and the longer he or she will be able to avoid alcohol treatment.

On the other hand, if you cannot always drink in moderation or abstain from drinking, consider making it a priority to talk with an alcohol abuse and alcoholism professional about getting alcohol rehab as soon as you can.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here