How To Cure Alcoholism: Treatment Options
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a progressive health condition that affects people of all ages and gender. It’s characterized by compulsive drinking, craving for alcohol, and reduced control over one’s drinking behavior. Individuals suffering from AUD can have difficulty abstaining from alcohol even when faced with negative consequences such as health issues, impaired relationships, and job loss.1
Symptoms of AUD may include:2
- Consistently needing more alcohol to achieve the same effect,
- Having intense cravings for alcohol,
- Being unable to limit the number of drinks consumed at one time,
- Drinking despite physical or psychological problems caused by it or related to it,
- Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol on a regular basis over an extended period,
- Withdrawing from usual activities in order to spend time drinking.
In addition to well-known effects such as impaired coordination and mental confusion, long-term use of alcohol can lead to serious health risks including certain types of cancer, heart disease, liver disease and reproductive problems. Fortunately, professional treatment of AUD is available.1
Is There a Cure for Alcoholism?
Despite its often devastating long-term effects, AUD can be particularly hard to treat without professional help, as alcoholism is a chronic condition with no permanent cure. This is because the cycle of alcohol addiction changes the entire body chemistry of the struggling individual, making them prone to relapse.3
1. Binge/Intoxication Stage
During this stage, an individual’s brain begins to reward them for drinking more and more as it becomes accustomed to its effects. Incentive salience is also a major factor in this stage, as it creates positive associative cues with the people, places and objects that remind the struggling individual of drinking. Finally, individuals who are in this stage may develop pathological habits such as needing to drink at certain times or situations.
2. Negative Effect/Withdrawal Stage
Without alcohol and other drugs in their system, individuals in this phase may exhibit feelings of anxiety, depression or even physical sickness depending on how severe their condition is. Two factors are important during this stage – a diminished activity in the reward systems, which makes it difficult to produce dopamine and enjoy things as usual; and increased stress in the extended amygdala that causes the negative emotional and mental state. The struggling individual may feel the need to drink again in order to experience relief from the unpleasant symptoms of this stage.
3. Preoccupation/Anticipation Stage
During this phase, struggling individuals will often become obsessed with obtaining or using their substance of choice, leading them down a destructive path towards further addiction unless proper treatment is sought out. The prefrontal cortex, responsible for making decisions, managing time, organizing thoughts and activities, and more, is compromised in individuals struggling with AUD. This can lead to even more difficulty at this stage for the struggling individual.
How to Treat Alcoholism?
While there’s no definite cure for alcoholism, there are many treatments and programs available to help individuals suffering from the disorder manage their symptoms and live a sober and healthier life.4
When it comes to treating AUD, it’s important to remember that the most effective treatment plans are tailored to meet the individual needs of the patient. A combination of psychological and medical support is often necessary in order to ensure a successful recovery and long-term sobriety.4
One of the first steps in treating AUD is identifying any underlying mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, which could be contributing to the problem. A qualified mental health professional can offer counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help struggling individuals understand their triggers and develop strategies for managing cravings. Medication may also be prescribed in order to address any psychological disorders that could be contributing to alcohol abuse.4
A variety of other treatment options are available for those seeking help and looking to cure their alcoholism. For example, groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) provide 12-step programs which can be beneficial for individuals looking for emotional support and guidance on their journey towards sobriety. Rehabilitation centers are another option. These facilities provide therapeutic interventions, detoxification services and more.4
Overall, it’s important to remember that alcoholism does not have a single “cure” but rather requires ongoing management and support from qualified professionals in order to achieve long-term sobriety goals. While some treatment-seeking individuals may require more intensive treatment than others, there are many different types of programs available for individuals at each stage of AUD.4
Alcohol Detox Programs
Alcohol detox programs are specialized programs typically administered in a hospital or rehabilitation clinic setting and that can help cure alcoholism in both the short and the long term. These programs provide individuals suffering from AUD with medical care, counseling and other treatments to help them achieve sobriety. During the detoxification process, patients typically receive professional monitoring and medical intervention to manage their physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.5
During an alcohol detox program, a team of doctors, nurses and counselors provide medical stabilization for the patient suffering from AUD. Detoxification typically involves providing medications and treatments that reduce withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, panic attacks and tremors. The duration of the detoxification process depends on the severity of the individual’s dependence on alcohol and the ability of their metabolism to process alcohol at the stage they’re in.5
One of the primary benefits of enrolling in an alcohol detox program is that it provides medical supervision and support throughout the duration of the detoxification period. This reduces the risk of experiencing dangerous withdrawal side effects including seizures, delirium tremens (DTs), and even death. Additionally, these programs provide a safe environment for struggling individuals to undergo treatment without fear or judgment from friends or family members who may not be aware or supportive of their efforts to quit drinking.5
After completing an alcohol detox program, there are still many steps necessary in order for treatment-seeking individuals to maintain long-term sobriety and prevent relapse into drinking habits, and in doing so ensure they are cured of their alcoholism. This includes enrolling in various aftercare treatments such as 12-step recovery programs like AA, outpatient counseling sessions, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy sessions, or residential treatment centers if needed. Continuing treatment after detox can help struggling individuals develop coping skills necessary for resisting temptation, as well as address underlying issues that may have led to the development of AUD in the first place.5
Inpatient or Outpatient Treatment Programs
Inpatient and outpatient treatment programs are two different types of mental health treatments available for individuals struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse, and other related issues.6
Inpatient treatment programs
Treatment-seeking individuals who are looking to cure their alcoholism are admitted to a treatment facility on a 24-hour basis, where they’re provided with comprehensive support and care. During the program, patients receive intensive individual therapy, group therapy, medication management, family meetings, and other therapies as needed.6
Inpatient programs typically last between 30 to 90 days depending on the patient’s needs and progress. The benefit of inpatient treatment is that treatment-seeking individuals can address their issues in a safe environment free from potential triggers or distractions outside of the facility. It also provides round-the-clock access to healthcare professionals who can monitor changes in behavior more closely than what would be possible in an outpatient setting.6
Outpatient treatment programs
These programs may be recommended for treatment-seeking individuals who don’t need full-time care, but still require some level of treatment and support. Patients attending an outpatient program will typically attend several times each week for individual or group therapy sessions.6
Outpatient treatment allows struggling individuals to remain in their own homes while receiving regular care, which is beneficial for those with family obligations or job requirements that may prevent them from taking extended leave from either.6
Medications for Alcohol Abuse Treatment
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is a method of treating alcohol abuse that combines psychosocial support with medications to reduce cravings and the risk of relapse. In general, there are three types of medications usually prescribed for MAT: Disulfiram, Naltrexone, and Acamprosate.7
- Disulfiram is an oral medication that works by blocking the breakdown of ethanol in the body. This causes unpleasant physical reactions when treatment-seeking individuals drink alcohol, such as severe nausea, vomiting, headaches, flushing and even potential death. It can be effective in helping struggling individuals abstain from alcohol and reduce their urge to drink.8
- Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that works by reducing cravings and blocking the euphoric effects of drinking. It may also help reduce anxiety levels associated with abstinence from alcohol. Naltrexone can be taken as a pill or injection and should always be used together with psychosocial support for maximum effectiveness.9
- Acamprosate is another medication used for MAT that helps to restore the chemical balance in the brain after periods of heavy drinking. It may reduce cravings for alcohol and may even reduce withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, restlessness and irritability. Acamprosate is usually taken in tablet form.10
In order for any medication-assisted treatment program to be successful and to serve as a long-term cure for alcoholism, it must include both medication and psychosocial support such as counseling sessions, group therapy, or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Medication alone won’t help someone stop drinking completely; they must also work on lifestyle and behavioral changes, such as avoiding high-risk situations or triggers that make them want to drink again.1,4, 7
In addition, it’s important to remember that each individual responds differently to MAT, so it may take some trial and error before finding the right combination of medications and support treatments for long-term success in recovery from alcohol abuse.7
How does Counseling Work for Alcoholism?
Counseling is an important part of treatment for individuals looking to cure alcoholism, as it may help struggling individuals gain insight into the causes behind their dependency on alcohol and equip them with the necessary tools to lead a sober lifestyle. A counselor can treat individuals who suffer from AUD in a private setting, allowing them to explore their thoughts and feelings without shame or judgment.11
This type of therapy may help treatment-seeking individuals learn how to cope with cravings, develop healthy coping strategies, manage stress, recognize triggers for relapse, and stay motivated in recovery. Counseling also provides an opportunity for developing better communication skills and improving family relationships — two things that are often essential for long-term success in sobriety.11
The goals of counseling for AUD are twofold: to reduce or eliminate drinking behaviors, and to promote overall mental health and well-being. Individuals who seek counseling may work with licensed professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, or marriage counselors.11
The focus of counseling sessions will depend on the individual’s needs. Common topics may include:11
- Identifying triggers that cause people to drink excessively (such as stress or depression),
- Examining underlying issues like trauma or grief that may be contributing to alcohol abuse,
- Challenging negative beliefs about drinking alcohol or oneself (such as “I deserve this” or “I can’t stop once I start”),
- Developing self-esteem and rebuilding relationships affected by addiction,
- Learning new ways of managing difficult emotions without turning to alcohol as a solution,
- Exploring healthier methods of stress-relief and relaxation instead of turning to alcohol.
In addition to one-on-one counseling sessions between client and counselor, there are several other effective forms of therapy available when dealing with addiction.11
- Group therapy sessions provide treatment-seeking individuals the opportunity to connect with peers who share similar experiences while learning tips on how they can support one another in sobriety;
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches struggling individuals how to modify problematic thoughts and behaviors associated with their disorder;
- Motivational interviewing encourages clients by helping them identify their internal motivations for change;
- Family therapy helps families heal from the effects of addiction while teaching important communication techniques.
Ultimately all these different types of therapies work together towards the same goal — helping struggling individuals looking for a solution or a cure for alcoholism find the strength they need within themselves so they can move forward in life free from substance abuse.11
Preventative Cure for Alcoholism: How to Prevent Alcohol Addiction?
While there is no single solution to preventing AUD, there are several steps that can be taken to reduce the risk.12
Avoiding risky drinking behaviors
One of the most important things to remember when it comes to preventing AUD is to avoid risky drinking behavior. This means limiting how much alcohol a person drinks in one sitting and avoiding binge drinking, which is defined as having four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men in a two-hour period. Pregnant women should avoid drinking any amount of alcohol, as even small amounts can be harmful to their unborn children.12
Having an overall healthy lifestyle
Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep each night, and engaging in stress-reduction activities such as yoga or meditation may help reduce the risk of developing AUD for some individuals. Spending time on meaningful activities such as hobbies or volunteering can provide distractions from the temptation of excessive drinking.12
Being educated about AUD
In addition, education initiatives aimed at reducing the stigma surrounding AUD may prove beneficial in decreasing the prevalence of the disorder. Teaching people about safe consumption practices may help individuals learn how to control their behaviors and make better decisions when it comes to consuming alcohol. Furthermore, providing free resources like online support groups and online recovery tools may be helpful for those who need extra assistance.12
Where to Find Treatment for Alcohol Abuse Disorder?
American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a network of rehabilitation facilities around the U.S., designed to help struggling individuals treat and manage their SUDs. The treatment process in AAC’s facilities is evidence-based and straightforward.
Treatment for AUD typically begins once a diagnosis is established. Medical treatment may involve detoxification as a first step for struggling individuals who have been significantly affected by the effects of alcohol. Detox helps manage both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting drinking, often with the help of medications that reduce cravings and help manage mood swings.
The causes of AUD can be different for each individual, which is why the therapeutic part of the program is important. Treatment-seeking individuals can explore how their AUD symptoms affect their psychological state, how to avoid triggers, what their underlying issues may be, what evidence-based cures for alcoholism may be available to them, and more. All of this can be done with a licensed therapist experienced in working with all types of individuals who struggle with substance abuse, regardless of the AUD stage they’re in.
Treatment-seeking individuals can contact AAC’s helpline and discuss their situation with a rehabilitation navigator. An experienced rehab navigator can answer any questions or concerns that the treatment-seeking individual may have, including the cost of treatment, the best choice of a facility, and insurance options and coverage. If you or your loved one are experiencing signs and symptoms of AUD, don’t hesitate to reach out for help and begin your recovery.