An addiction to alcohol is both a physical addiction, as well as a profound psychological addiction to the effects of alcohol. Stopping drinking abruptly can trigger convulsions, hallucinations and delirium, and in severe cases, these can be life threatening. Most alcoholics will need to detox under medical supervision to safely get off alcohol. Alcohol detoxification treatment may or may not involve pharmaceutical treatment, such as the administration of anti anxiety and anti convulsion medications, and in severe cases may involve constant medical vital signs monitoring. A physical dependency to alcohol is powerful, and alcoholics should not attempt to detox without medical supervision.
After the initial period of physical dependency has passed, an alcoholic needs to begin the road to recovery; which can only be achieved by breaking the psychological addiction to alcohol that keeps them turning back to drinking.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which uses a spiritually based 12 step program to recovery is by far the most common system, and alcoholics anonymous has proven very effective for peer support against a return to drinking. Not everyone will respond to the AA method, and many people feel that AA works best when used in conjunction with other forms of treatment.
Therapy for Alcoholics
Commonly, alcoholics will undergo both group counseling sessions with other alcoholics, as well as private sessions with a psychologist or addiction treatment specialist. The goal of these sessions is to learn what triggers the desire to drink, and to learn how to avoid these triggers and resist the inevitable urges back towards alcohol. Getting off alcohol is hard, staying off is harder; and any worthwhile treatment program will be intensive. An inpatient facility is often considered the better choice for people with serious addictions, as the time spent away from the normal environment provides an opportunity to learn how to cope with the triggers and social situations that lead to drinking, in preparation for an ultimate return to the normal environment.
There are some medications available that will either make drinking again very unpleasant, or take the pleasure out of drinking, but these are treatments are not as well regarded as the group therapy and counseling program approach.
Alcoholism is a disease, and for most people, the treatment of this disease will continue for the rest of their lives.
Page last updated Sep 16, 2010