Behavioral health conditions

Alcohol abuse treatment PRINT BACK

Some people are able to quit drinking. They can stay sober. They can get on with their lives without help. But most problem drinkers can’t. They need help.

There are a number of alcohol treatment programs. Most share these goals.

  • Reducing or stopping alcohol use.
  • Improving people’s ability to get along with others, work and get healthy.
  • Preparing people for possible slips in staying sober.

Problem drinkers often do well with combined treatments. The use of therapy, medicine and a support group at the same time is an example. This helps a lot of people recover.

Types of treatment

Therapy. This helps people with alcohol problems understand their habit. They learn how it started. They learn how it affects them. They learn skills to get over it. They learn how to talk things out. And solve problems. Therapists assign homework. Patients practice skills between sessions. Therapists help patients learn why they may start to use alcohol again. They figure out how to avoid it. They learn to get back on track after a slip.

Some people are pushed into treatment by others. This could be a judge, for example. He or she may offer a choice between counseling or jail. When users of alcohol go into therapy this way, they may be less likely to recover. They may not be ready to change.

Family therapy. Alcohol problems don't just affect those who are drinking. Family therapy can help. This helps family members learn how to cope. And get past problems. Then they can move forward in a healthy way. In order for it to work, it's best if all family members attend.

Family members may benefit from going to meetings of Al-Anon. This is a support group. It’s for relatives and friends of people with drinking problems. It helps them deal with the person’s alcohol abuse.

Medicines. These can help in several ways. Antabuse causes patients who take it to become very ill if they drink alcohol. A doctor must care for these patients. Other drugs reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Support groups. These offer group therapy. They are led by mental health professionals. They may be like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). These groups can be very helpful when you're trying to stop drinking. People learn from others who've been through it too. Members don't judge. But they also don't accept denial.

Settings for treatment

Hospital care provides treatment around the clock. Staff members help people get alcohol out of their systems. It is intense but brief. Staying sober over time is the focus.

Live-in treatment facilities offer 24-hour support. There are different types of facilities. Some offer medical care. Others may not. They do not provide long-term care. They do provide a safe setting where people can get ready to go on to other therapy.

Intensive outpatient treatment or partial hospitalization are other kinds of care. They are types of day treatment. People in these levels of care spend most of the day at the facility. They take part in therapy and learning activities. They go home at night. This meets each person’s needs. It prepares the patient to live on his or her own again.

Outpatient treatment gives patients the most freedom. But their progress is still watched. Patients might meet with their therapist for an hour each week.

Patients move on to treatment settings that allow for more freedom. This helps them get their self-esteem back. This helps them get back to normal. But some patients stop treatment before they're ready. This can put their recovery at risk.

To learn more:

Al-Anon Family Groups – includes Alateen


This document is for your information only. It is not meant to give medical advice. It should not be used to replace a visit with a provider. Magellan Healthcare does not endorse other resources that may be mentioned here.