Understanding Alcoholism Treatment

Alcoholism treatment involves providers and facilities such as detox and inpatient rehabilitation where problem drinkers can receive medication, counseling, and connect with post-treatment support to continue the journey of sobriety.

Alcohol Treatment: Be the 5%

A recent study showed that roughly 95% of Americans struggling with alcoholism felt that they did not need treatment.

Further research from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that 17 million of adults ages 18 and older have an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), and 1 in 10 children live in a home with a parent who has a drinking problem.

These statistics show that alcoholism is pervasive, but few feel they need professional help. Consider other research that shows about one-third of people who enter treatment trials are in full remission from alcohol dependence for the following year.

If you have a drinking problem, are you one of the 5% not swimming upstream?

Do I Have a Problem?

The first step to seeking treatment for alcohol abuse is to admit you may have a problem.

Here are some “red flags” and questions to ask yourself:

  • Are there times when you drank more or for a longer period than you intended?
  • Have you more than once wanted to cut back or stop but were unable to?
  • Have you continued to drink more even though it was making you depressed or anxious or adding one to another health issue?
  • Have you drunk until you had a memory blackout?
  • Continued drinking even though it was causing problems with your family and friends?
  • Has your behavior changed when drinking, causing you to commit dangerous acts (e.g. drinking-and-driving) or committing acts of violence or crime?

If some of these questions hit close to home, you may have an AUD. For more detail, check out our online assessment.

Types of Treatment for Alcoholism

There is no “one size fits all” treatment for alcoholism. There are different facilities and solutions that vary in approach and cost.

Alcohol Detox

If you are a problem drinker just out of a “bender,” abrupt alcohol cessation can cause potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms like delirium tremors. For such drinkers, entering detoxification at a treatment facility is the best course. In detox, medical professionals often substitute drugs that have similar effects to that of alcohol to prevent uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Following detox, a facility will often have other forms of treatment and therapy to guide the recovering alcoholic further along the road of sobriety.

Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehab is where an alcoholic resides overnight in a treatment facility anywhere from 30-90 days in a structured program with around-the-clock care from specialists trained in alcohol rehabilitation and addiction issues. This type of treatment prepares a recovering alcoholic for life after rehab and guides the patient thru strategies to overcome triggers and behavior that lead to drinking.

Alcohol Counseling

With counseling at an inpatient or outpatient program, a patient meets with an alcohol counselor or therapist to unearth trauma and other psychological issues present with family, friends, co-workers, and peers that can trigger problem drinking. The counselor presents coping strategies and tools to keep body and mind healthy and free of alcohol for the long run.


There are promising medications for alcoholism that are used in all the above forms of treatment as well as independent of them.

The following medications are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), offset changes in the brain caused by alcoholism and help people stop or reduce their drinking:

  • Naltrexone: assists people in reducing heavy drinking
  • Acamprosate: facilitates abstinence in problem drinkers
  • Disulfiram: blocks the breakdown of alcohol in the body, resulting in nausea or flushing in the skin of an alcoholic and leading to alcohol avoidance

There are newer medications helping people battle smoking and epilepsy that have shown promise in reducing alcohol cravings and dependence.

With medication, one might cynically wonder the efficacy of treating one addiction with another by popping a pill. These drugs are non-addictive. Alcoholism is a disease and should be treated as such. Would a diabetic wonder if it is morally dubious to take her insulin?

Support Groups

Peer groups using a 12-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon where alcoholics support one another thru recovery.

Tips for Selecting Treatment

When exploring treatment for alcoholism, research and investigation are advised. Gather as much information as you can before settling on a specific treatment facility or strategy.

Some questions to ask:

  • What kind of treatment does the program or provider offer? Are medications offered? Are mental health issues addressed as part of the treatment for alcoholism?
  • Is treatment tailored to you? No single treatment benefits every alcoholic. How will the individual plan help me?
  • What is expected of me? How much does it cost? Does the treatment facility accept insurance?
  • Is treatment success measured? Does the facility or provider have metrics showing success for alcoholism stopping and staying away from drinking?
  • How does the program or provider handle relapse? Relapse is common. Does the facility have a plan?

The more you research treatment for alcoholism, the better chances you will find a facility that will help you be among the 5% of problem drinkers who want help and the ability to thrive in the future. If you would like any assistance in finding a treatment facility for alcoholism, please contact Quit Alcohol.