Alcoholism Addiction Treatment


Not unlike other illnesses and diseases, alcoholism can be overcome with prevention, relevant educational programs, quality treatment, and more research.

Although alcoholism addiction is an extremely dangerous disease, fortunately in most instances, it can be treated effectively.

Treating alcoholism typically includes a combination of counseling, education, support, prescribed medications, and follow-up rehab to help an individual quit drinking.

In fact, this combination may be the current best treatment scenario.

Stated differently, after treating people and helping them overcome their addiction via medications, education, and support, counseling and follow-up rehab can then teach them how to make the necessary lifestyle changes that will help them avoid an alcohol relapse and remain sober.


What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence and alcohol addiction, is a progressive debilitating disease that includes the following four symptoms.

  • Loss of control: an inability to stop drinking after the first drink.

  • Physical dependence: withdrawal symptoms such as "the shakes," nausea, headaches, perspiration, and anxiety when abstaining from alcohol.

  • Tolerance: the need to drink increasingly more alcohol in order to get "high" or to feel a "buzz."

  • Craving: having a strong urge or need to drink.

Alcoholism Treatment: An Overview

Similar to other illnesses and diseases, alcoholism addiction can be overcome with effective treatment, prevention, and additional research.

In fact, with better availability to professional alcoholism addiction treatment, the costly drain on society and the physical, psychological, financial hardships that alcoholism addiction places on families can be greatly minimized or reduced.

Indeed, current alcoholism research studies reveal powerful evidence that effective alcoholism addiction treatment approaches and alcoholism prevention result in major reductions in unwanted pregnancy, HIV, strokes, cancer, child abuse, traffic fatalities, hearth disease, and crime.

Moreover, top-shelf treatment for drug abuse and alcoholism addiction improves a person's health, quality of life, and job performance while at the same time reducing drug abuse, family disruption, and dealings with the criminal justice system.

As serious as alcoholism addiction is, the good news is that it can be effectively treated.

Treatment for alcoholism typically includes a combination of counseling and prescribed drugs to help an individual abstain from drinking alcohol.

Although the vast majority of alcoholics need professional assistance to recover from their addiction, alcoholism research scientists, nevertheless, have found that with support and top-rate alcoholism addiction treatment, many people are able to stop drinking and re-establish their lives.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

There is a great variety of techniques and methodologies available today for treating alcoholism withdrawal.

While some of these approaches use doctor prescribed medications, many, conversely, do not.

In fact, according to some of the current research literature, the safest way to treat mild withdrawal symptoms is without medications.

Such non-drug treatment approaches use screening and comprehensive social support all through the withdrawal process.

Other non-drug detox methodologies, moreover, use vitamin therapy (especially thiamin) and good nutrition for treating mild withdrawal symptoms.

Mild to Moderate Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The following represents mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms that usually occur within 6 to 48 hours after the last alcoholic drink:

  • Involuntary movements of the eyelids

  • Nausea

  • Clammy skin

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Tremor of the hands

  • Looking pale

  • Sweating (especially on the palms of the hands or on the face)

  • Vomiting

  • Pulsating headaches

  • Loss of appetite

  • Abnormal movements

  • Sleeping difficulties

  • Enlarged or dilated pupils

Severe Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The following is a list of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms that typically occur within 48 to 96 hours after the last alcoholic drink:

  • Muscle tremors

  • Black outs

  • Severe autonomic nervous system overactivity

  • Fever

  • Seizures

  • Visual hallucinations

  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

  • Convulsions

Alcoholism Treatment: Traditional Approaches

There are numerous "mainstream" alcohol treatment approaches that are widely employed and available.

The following alcoholism treatment programs and therapies will be discussed:

  • Behavioral Treatments

  • Detoxification

  • Therapeutic Medications

  • Residential Alcoholism Treatment Programs

  • Outpatient Alcoholism Treatment and Counseling

  • Family and Marital Counseling

Behavioral Treatments, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Motivation Enhancement Therapy, attempt to alter a person's drinking.

It is interesting to point out that a study that was done by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) revealed that each of these three behavioral treatment approaches substantially reduced drinking in patients the year after treatment.

Even though all three of these programs were considered "successful" by the NIAAA, moreover, not one of them could be considered "the best" treatment for alcoholism addiction.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Alcoholics Anonymous is a mutual support program for recovering alcoholics that is based on the 12-steps of recovery that are required in order for individuals to remain sober.

Support and help are typically provided via the meetings that regularly take place.

Is Alcoholics Anonymous the best approach for the treatment of alcoholism addiction?

Even though Alcoholics Anonymous has shown itself to be an effective alcoholism addiction treatment methodology, numerous practitioners outside of Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as many AA members think that Alcoholics Anonymous is most effective when combined with other types of treatment such as psychotherapy and medical assistance.

Motivation Enhancement Therapy (MET) is a systematic therapeutic protocol that is essentially the treatment opposite of Alcoholics Anonymous in that it uses motivational tactics to trigger the individuals' own change processes.

Some of the main characteristics of Motivation Enhancement Therapy are the following:

  • Providing feedback regarding the personal risks or damage associated with the abuse

  • Providing the client with a number of alternative change options

  • Receiving clear advice to make healthy changes

  • Therapist empathy

  • Helping the client achieve self-efficacy or a sense of optimism

  • Emphasis on taking personal responsibility for positive change


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). There are many types of cognitive behavior therapy.

Most of them, nevertheless, share the following features:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • CBT is a mutually shared effort between the therapist and the client.

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

  • Homework is a central feature of CBT.

  • CBT is structured and directive.

  • CBT usually has therapeutic sessions that are briefer and fewer in number than most other forms of therapy.

  • CBT uses the Socratic Method that is based on the asking of questions for insight.

  • 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.

Detoxification. Alcohol detoxification is the process of letting the body naturally eliminate the alcohol that has been consumed while managing the withdrawal symptoms in a harm-free environment.

Alcoholism detox is usually done under the guidance of a medical doctor and is often the first step employed in an alcoholism treatment protocol.

Due to the fact that a relatively long time period is required to complete the detoxification procedure, however, this form of treatment is typically part of an inpatient alcohol rehab program.

Therapeutic Medications. According to the current research literature, the drugs with the highest likelihood of producing effective results when treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms are the benzodiazepines.

Examples include the shorter-acting benzodiazepines such as Ativan and Serax and the longer-acting benzodiazepines such as Valium and Librium.

After an individual "beats" his or her withdrawal symptoms, other doctor-prescribed drugs such as disulfiram (Antabuse) or naltrexone (ReViaT) can be administered to help prevent the person from returning to drinking after he or she has suffered a relapse.

Stated simply, with this therapeutic method, doctors prescribe drugs to treat alcoholism addiction.

For instance, antabuse is frequently given to alcoholics because it results in negative consequences such as nausea, flushing, dizziness, and vomiting if alcohol is ingested.

It is clear, however, that antabuse "works" so effectively because it is such a powerful deterrent. Naltrexone (ReViaT), on the other hand, is employed in a much different way.

More to the point naltrexone targets the brain's reward system and "works" because it significantly reduces the alcoholic's craving for alcohol.

Residential Alcohol Treatment Programs and Inpatient Alcohol Rehab. If a person needs alcohol poisoning treatment, if the person's withdrawal symptoms are severe, if there's a need for alcohol AND drug abuse treatment, or if outpatient programs or support-oriented programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous are ineffective, the person will probably have to either register into a hospital or into a residential alcohol treatment facility and get inpatient alcoholism rehab treatment.

These types of programs are aimed at alcoholic inpatients and typically include doctor-prescribed drugs to help the person get through alcoholism detoxification and alcoholism withdrawal in a safe and harm-free manner.

Outpatient Alcoholism Treatment and Counseling. There are many counseling approaches that train alcoholics how to become more aware of the emotional and situational "hot buttons" that lead to their drinking behavior.

Armed with this information, alcoholics can develop different ways of responding in circumstances that are alcohol-free.

Not surprisingly, these therapies are usually offered on an outpatient basis.

Family and Marital Counseling. Since the recovery process is so intimately associated to the support the alcoholic receives from his or her family, a number of alcoholism addiction treatment programs include marital and family counseling as important elements in the treatment protocol.

Therapeutic methodologies that employ marriage and family therapy, moreover, also provide alcoholics with essential community services such as financial management classes, parenting courses, childcare classes, job training, and legal assistance.

Alcoholism Addiction Rehab: Alternative Therapies

Although the findings in the research literature are inconclusive, there are numerous alternative treatment therapies for alcoholism addiction that are becoming more widely used, researched, and available.

Examples include the following therapies that have been proposed as "natural" forms of alcohol addiction treatment: the holistic and naturalistic approaches used by Traditional Chinese Medicine, different vitamin and supplement approaches, and "Drumming out Drugs" (a type of therapy that makes use of drumming by patients).

As promising and encouraging as these alternative therapies are, additional research, nonetheless, is needed to determine their long term success and effectiveness.

Conclusion: Alcoholism Addiction Treatment

Although a cure for alcoholism has not been uncovered, many alcoholism addiction treatment programs and methodologies, nevertheless, are employed that help those who are alcohol dependent recover from their addiction.

In a word, there is a lot of alcoholism addiction treatment information that is available both online and offline.

Some individuals are certain to ask the following question regarding alcoholism: "What is the most effective alcoholism addiction treatment that is currently available"?

Like any chronic disease or illness, there are many different levels of success concerning alcoholism addiction treatment.

For instance, some alcoholics cannot abstain from drinking alcohol for any substantial period of time regardless of the type of treatment they receive.

Other people who are alcohol dependent, however, experience relatively long periods of sobriety after receiving treatment and then experience a drinking relapse.


And still other individuals, after treatment, abstain from drinking and remain sober.

As a point of emphasis, it is interesting to note that all of these treatment outcomes take place with every known type of alcoholism addiction treatment.

At any rate, one essential point about alcoholism addiction treatment is apparent: the longer an individual abstains from drinking alcohol, the more likely he or she will be able to remain sober and potentially avoid alcoholism addiction treatment before it becomes a concern.