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Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

There are many options for those battling alcohol addiction. Consult your doctor to find the best alcohol addiction treatment plan.

What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD), or alcoholism, is a chronic medical condition that causes a dependence on alcohol and may be mild, moderate, or severe. AUDs often cause a need for alcohol so strong that the person can’t stop using it even if it causes issues. 

When alcohol dependence hits, AUDs may cause one to drink more than customary to achieve the same effect. It will also most likely cause withdrawal symptoms when one stops drinking alcohol

Since alcohol addiction is a chronic disease, relapses to the drug may cause significant changes to your brain structure. If you abstain from alcohol, there is an increased risk of resuming unhealthy alcohol intake years later.

How Common Is Alcohol Use Disorder?

According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, alcohol abuse kills over three million people yearly; this accounts for 6% of the world’s deaths. The report also recorded a 10% death between people aged 15 to 49 due to alcohol effects. 

Additionally, the information records that men are three times more likely to die from the effects of alcohol abuse than women.1

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How Can Drinking Affect Me?

Drinking too much, especially within a short time, severely affects your health, social, work, and other areas of your life. These effects may include: 2

Brain Damage

Alcohol affects your brain’s communication pathways, changing how your brain works, looks, and perceives information. These disruptions may change your behaviors, moods, thinking, and coordination as well, and can even end up causing dementia.

Anxiety, Despair, Depression, and Suicide

Most people turn to alcohol as an escape when dealing with stressful times. However, if you try to stop drinking alcohol as well, you can have various side effects, including depression, anxiety, despair, and even suicidal ideations. Initially, drinking may reduce your fears and keep your mind off your struggles, but once you start, you build up a tolerance to it.


Various research links drinking too much alcohol with several cancers, including breast, colon, and liver cancers. According to the Breast Cancer Organization, almost four million American women have a history of breast cancer, meaning that adding alcohol into the mix can make that number even higher.3

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

If someone has a drinking problem while pregnant, they potentially expose their unborn child to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Physical and mental defects characterize FAS in the unborn child, including growth problems and brain damage that may be irreversible.

Other Risks Associated With Overconsumption of Alcohol

Other problems associated with drinking too much alcohol include:
  • Involvement in accidents such as burns or falls and injuries like fractures or drowning
  • Developing liver problems, such as cirrhosis, fatty liver, and hepatitis
  • Occasional blackouts, DUIs, assaults, and even homicide
  • Hemorrhaging and blood clots
  • Bloating
  • Sleep issues, like insomnia
  • Immune system complications

What Causes Alcohol Addiction?

The causes of alcohol addiction are varied and can result from a myriad of co-existing issues as well. Recent research links signs of alcoholism to many social, psychological, environmental, and genetic factors. 

Some of these include:

  • Genetics: Research shows that alcoholism may be hereditary and pass from parent to child.
  • Early childhood events: Early childhood events may cause one to begin using alcohol at a young age. Such people develop physical dependence as they grow older.
  • Attempts to relieve emotional pain: Emotional pain, such as losing a loved one or getting divorced, may cause one so much grief that they resort to alcohol as an escape.
  • Trauma: Emotional trauma creates feelings of despair, guilt, and many other things that may lead someone to using alcohol to cope again.
  • Family history of alcohol abuse: If your parent(s) or relative has an AUD, the chances of battling alcoholism increase.
  • Mental health issues: Mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety, increases the risk of alcohol misuse. It is easy to use alcohol during stressful times as a temporary escape, leading to alcohol addiction.

What Are the Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction?

The symptoms of alcoholism include:
  • Blacking out or not remembering things that happened
  • Continuing to drink even if it causes distress or harm to you or others
  • Frequent hangovers
  • Getting into dangerous situations when you’re drinking
  • Giving up other activities so you can drink
  • Having cravings for alcohol
  • Needing to drink more and more to get the same effect
  • Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from drinking
  • Obsessing over alcohol
  • Memory loss
  • Inefficiency at school or work-related tasks
  • Giving up the hobbies you used to love to drink alcohol

Understanding Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Alcohol addiction is treatable. Nearly all rehab centers offer alcohol addiction treatment services, and, in most cases, the treatment is similar between facilities. However, that treatment is also specifically tailored to each patient and what their needs may be. It is never too soon or too late to seek treatment for alcohol use disorder. If alcohol

causes any harmful problem in any area of your life, you should seek medical advice and alcoholism treatment. Diagnosing alcohol addiction is not easy because it does not consist of solely using a simple physical examination or blood test. However, a doctor may tell if you have an alcohol use disorder by the following methods:

Ask You Questions Relating to Drinking Patterns

According to the confidential law, any information you give your doctor is discrete. Your doctor may ask questions about your drinking habits to assess your situation better. They may also request permission to speak to your friends and family regarding your drinking problem in order to discern more about what kind of help you may need.

Perform A Physical Exam

A healthcare professional may ask questions about your health and do a physical exam as well. Different physical signs indicate various effects of alcohol use and abuse.

Suggest Lab Tests and Imaging Tests

Though there are no specific lab tests that diagnose alcoholism, certain patterns in test results strongly suggest an AUD. Tests showing damaged organs may also link to alcohol abuse.

Complete A Psychological Evaluation

The psychological evaluation consists of questions about your thoughts, symptoms, behavior patterns, and feelings. Other doctors may give this evaluation in the form of a questionnaire.

What Are the Stages of Alcohol Use Disorder?

The following four stages of alcoholism are a great way to determine whether you or a loved one has an alcohol use disorder. While not everyone goes through all the stages of alcoholism, the following are potential indicators of alcohol abuse.

At-Risk Stage

The at-risk stage has little to no evidence of a problem with drinking. You may be using alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress, anxiety, depression, or other emotions. Your environment may also place you at a high risk of abusing alcohol.

Early Alcohol Use Disorder

A pattern of abusing alcohol begins with the early alcohol use disorder stage. This is where significant biological changes start to happen internally. You may start drinking regularly and may even use social meetings as an excuse for misusing alcohol.

Mid-Stage Alcohol Use Disorder

Your body becomes dependent on alcohol at the mid-stage. When you fail within a suitable amount of time, you can develop withdrawal symptoms like tremors, nausea, insomnia, vomiting, and more anywhere from six to twenty-four hours after your last drink. 

You start having problems with your friends or family, health, and work-related issues.4 Even when you try to hide your addiction, the problem might become more evident to others because the body tends to get bloated from over-usage.

End-Stage Alcohol Use Disorder

At the end-stage of alcohol abuse, alcohol tends to take over your entire day in one way or another. You develop intense cravings and painful withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit alcohol. During this stage, you can’t function normally without drinking, even when continued drinking causes severe health problems.

What Medications Are Used to Treat Alcohol Use & Abuse?

Depending on your specific scenario, a doctor may prescribe medications to treat alcohol addiction. Some medicines help treat withdrawal effects, while others help counterbalance any changes an AUD might have caused you. 

For alcohol addiction treatment, a doctor may prescribe one of the following drugs:5


Naltrexone, also known as an opiate antagonist, blocks the alcohol receptors in your brain. This way, drinking becomes less pleasurable and reduces cravings to drink alcohol.


Doctors usually prescribe acamprosate if alcohol is your primary substance of choice. This medication heals any brain damage alcohol causes and reduces drinking cravings. Unlike naltrexone, acamprosate does not cause any unpleasant or severe effects.


Doctors prescribe disulfiram in cases of chronic alcoholism treatment where you can’t control alcohol use. Disulfiram stops your body’s ability to metabolize any alcohol content. If you take disulfiram and continue to drink alcohol, your body reacts differently and often with adverse side effects, including rapid heart palpitations or even nausea.

These side effects intend to dissuade you from taking alcohol and are helpful during the first stages of your recovery. Take note that excessive drinking of alcohol while on disulfiram medication leads to severe side effects.

Alcohol Detoxification Treatment

The alcohol detoxification process works to remove alcohol from your body. Depending on your needs, the daily activities during detox may include various medical observations, medication treatments, and counseling sessions.6 

Detoxification is a different process for everyone and depends on various factors, including the length of time you have been drinking, if you used alcohol with other substances, your gender, etc. Either way, withdrawal symptoms accompany the detox stage and require treating medication.

Prescription Drugs to Mitigate Withdrawal Symptoms During Detox

Doctors commonly use the following drugs to treat withdrawal symptoms during detox:
  • Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines affect the same receptors alcohol manipulates and calms the body. Hence, these drugs reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms.
  • Anticonvulsants: Anticonvulsant medications help treat seizures. Therefore, they are ideal for patients who experience seizures as a withdrawal symptom.
  • Antipsychotics: Doctors use antipsychotics in patients with a primary psychotic condition that started during or before alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol addiction can sometimes exacerbate these conditions as well.

Residential Rehab Services for Treating Alcohol Addiction

Residential rehab is a type of inpatient treatment program that accommodates people struggling with severe cases of mental health disorders, substance use disorders, or both. Residential rehab offers a long-term treatment plan to achieve sobriety and aftercare services upon discharge to help maintain long-lasting recovery.

Residential rehab for alcoholism treatment offers a constant care plan. Therapists provide scheduled and structured therapy activities and supervised sessions in a therapeutic environment. Therapeutic strategies involve therapy, case management, housing, and help with legal issues once you get out of treatment as well. 

The structure of residential rehab promotes a safe and secure addiction recovery that eliminates any potential causes for relapse from everyday life. Doctors offer around-the-clock surveillance to patients to help ensure zero relapse due to stimuli from the outside environment.

Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient alcohol rehab is an intensive, short-term rehab service prescribed in emergency crises, such as detox or stabilizing your condition. Doctors base most inpatient alcohol rehabs in the hospital’s emergency centers. 

This way, patients can quickly get psychiatric support, evaluation, and supervision. Inpatient treatment prepares patients to transition to other rehab facilities such as intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, or outpatient treatment. Patients usually require continued treatment to enable and support long-term addiction recovery.

Outpatient Rehab Services for Treating Alcohol Addiction

Outpatient rehab for treating alcohol addiction allows you to attend treatment while also regularly continuing your daily routine outside the center. The most common types of outpatient rehab for treating alcohol addiction will be detailed below.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

A PHP is ideal for patients requiring more behavioral health care than the standard outpatient programs. A PHP offers various behavioral therapies, along with case management, fitness and nutrition help, relapse prevention, and aftercare planning. These programs efficiently treat substance use disorders, including AUD, and are conducted in a residential or inpatient alcohol rehab facility.

In a PHP program, patients undergo evaluation, detox, psychological and medical treatment, transition, and maintenance. A partial hospitalization program may last from a couple of weeks to several months though the length highly depends on the patient’s needs. These programs typically require you to report for treatment five days a week for anywhere from six to eight hours a day.

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)

Intensive outpatient programs for alcohol addiction treatment require you to visit the treatment facility for three to six hours daily anywhere from three to five days a week. IOPs are more intensive than other outpatient programs and primarily work with group therapy. Most IOP programs may last up to ninety days and consist of drug testing as well. 

Expect to find services such as medication management, counseling, case management, vocational training, psychiatric screening, and introduction to support groups in an IOP setting. This therapy is ideal for patients who need to maintain abstinence, build a support system, improve problem-solving skills, and achieve behavioral change.

Standard Outpatient Treatment

Standard outpatient treatment as a cure for alcoholism has sessions lasting one to three days a week for one to three hours a day. Group therapy is a primary focus in a standard outpatient program. Outpatient treatments generally conduct a lot of drug testing, as you only spend a few hours at the treatment facility.

Behavioral Therapies for Alcohol Addiction

Various behavioral therapies can help you achieve sobriety if you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol abuse. They include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) falls under psychotherapeutic treatments. CBT helps you identify any destructive thought pattern that causes you to have negative behavior or emotions. 

Once you figure out these negative thoughts, you then challenge yourself to replace them with more positive ones. CBT also gives you the techniques to help you identify and change negative thought patterns, behaviors, and emotional responses.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)

MET is a short-term treatment for people battling alcohol use disorder, lasting four to six sessions, depending on the patient. This therapy motivates you to change your destructive and harmful behavior using motivational interviewing techniques and encourages commitment and coping tactics.

Motivational interviewing uses strategies to help you become more confident, ready, and willing to change. The first two sessions of MET usually involve patient assessment, where your therapist learns more about your alcohol use disorder. The following sessions use motivational interviewing techniques to help you develop abstinence and build motivation.

Marital and Family Counseling

Family and marital counseling offer a safe space where families can talk and work through any issues they have. This counseling involves family groups, including blended families, extended families, parents, children, etc. Family and marital counseling help family members communicate better and minimize arguments and conflict.

Brief Alcohol Interventions

Brief alcohol interventions involve feedback on alcohol use, related problems, and ways to cope with and reduce alcoholism. Brief interventions include identifying high-risk situations that may lead to heavy drinking, motivation to change drinking behaviors, and developing personal plans to reduce drinking.

Doctors deliver brief alcohol interventions in regular consultations that may last up to thirty minutes. These interventions may be short, but they generally only take between one to five sessions.

Get Help With Alcohol Addiction at Ripple Ranch

Reach out to Ripple Ranch today if you are battling alcohol use disorder. At Ripple Ranch, we work with a team of hardworking, friendly, and reliable therapists with extensive knowledge of substance use disorders. Schedule a free consultation to learn about our various alcohol addiction treatment plans. Reach out to our team today.