Left untreated, alcoholism can be fatal but there is help for alcoholics. In this article we look at methods to help alcoholics break the cycle of addiction


an alcoholic female who is depressed from her alcoholism

Alcoholism can often lead to depression

While alcohol consumption is socially acceptable, alcohol is still a kind of drug, and one that can cause a lot of problems. Luckily, help is available. If you are concerned about yourself or someone you care about, you will be glad to know that getting help is relatively easy. In fact, agencies, such as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, are ensuring the availability of appropriate treatment.

“Treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), once essentially limited to the mutual support group Alcoholics Anonymous founded in 1935, has seen many significant advances. In addition to mutual support groups, AUD can be treated with medications and behavioral therapies, as well as combinations of treatments. Technology—such as email and the Internet—has opened new avenues for diagnosing and treating people with AUD. And researchers continue to develop alternate treatment strategies that can offer help to everyone who wants to change their drinking habits.”

Alcoholic Helpline is here to help you.  Call our hotline and speak to someone who has been there and who can provide guidance 1-866-225-8502

Do You Need Treatment?

One of the biggest public health issues this country is facing is the one caused by alcohol problems, including drinking too much, drinking too quickly, and drinking too often. It is believed that some 17 million people over the age of 18 in this country are suffering from alcoholism, and that 10% of children live in a home where an alcoholic is present.

Thankfully, a wide range of treatment options are available, and most people with a drinking problem will be able to benefit from them.

“Treatment for [alcoholism] had made significant advances in the last 20 years. Researchers are working on numerous and novel approaches to improving the effectiveness, accessibility, quality, and cost-effectiveness of treatment.”

Signs of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse/Dependency

In order to seek treatment, it is important to first recognize the presence of a problem. Those who have a drinking problem will usually exhibit at least two of the following symptoms:

Regularly drinking for longer period or in larger quantities than intended
Trying unsuccessfully to cut down alcohol consumption or stop altogether
Spending a lot of time drinking and having hangovers
Craving alcohol
Finding that drinking interferes with their personal, professional, or educational life
Continuing to drink despite the presence of alcohol-related problems
Cutting back or giving up on activities other than drinking
Engaging in dangerous behaviors
Continuing to drink despite noticing negative health effects
Needing to drink more to feel the desired effects
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if they stop drinking
What Kinds of Treatment Are Available?

Most people think of the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) when considering alcohol treatment, or at least another form of 12-step program. Many are also aware of inpatient rehab. However, few know about the wealth of other solutions that exist. No one-size-fits-all solution is in place, because every situation and every individual is different.

Treatment Options

Behavioral treatment in which counseling is offered to change behavior. This includes cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), motivational enhancement therapy, and marital and family counseling.
Medications, which are available on prescription
Support groups, such as 12 step programs
The best place to start to get treatment is a primary care physician, although support groups like the AA are open to anyone. You will need to see a physician because he will be able to determine whether you have an AUD or not, which treatment is most likely to be successful, what the state of your health is, and whether you need medication.

FDA-Approved Medication

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has currently given its approval for three types of medication for alcohol dependency, while others are undergoing trials. One of them is Naltrexone.

“Naltrexone hydrochloride is a relatively pure and long-lasting opioid antagonist. Oral naltrexone has been used to treat opioid dependence for many years and has been approved to treat alcohol use disorders (AUDs) since 1994. Naltrexone reduces both the rewarding effects of alcohol and craving for it.”

Naltrexone has proven to be very beneficial in helping people reduce how much they drink. A second approved drug is Acamprosate, which makes abstinence easier. The final option is Disulfiram, which discourages people from consuming alcohol by making them feel quite ill when they drink.

There are several reasons why people aren’t automatically prescribed medication. One is that different people respond in different ways, making some options more effective while others are less effective. Furthermore, many people are concerned that taking medication is essentially replacing the addiction with a new one. That is incorrect because many drugs are nonaddictive. Also, addiction is a chronic disease, and all chronic diseases require treatment.

Expected Advances in Treatment

A lot of research is being completed into how alcoholism and alcohol abuse/addiction can better be treated. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is currently looking into personalized treatment, for instance.

“Each patient develops an AUD based on his or her unique neurobiological makeup and lifetime experiences—a complex interaction of underlying genetic and environmental mechanisms. This heterogeneity can be understood as a number of subphenotypes, each having its own unique profile of drinking pattern, motivation for drinking, alcohol-related consequences, and neurobiological underpinnings. Not surprisingly, a wide variety of clinically acceptable treatment outcomes are possible with AUD, including not only abstinence, but also low-risk drinking, and even some less-conservative forms of moderate drinking.”

Some of the new drugs being considered are:

Varenicline, an anti-smoking drug
Gabapentin, an anti-epilepsy drug
Topiramate, also an anti-epilepsy drug

How to Choose Treatment

It is important that you choose the treatment that is right for your individual needs. Your primary physician can help you with this, but do make sure that you also do your own research. Look at the types of treatment that are offered in a facility, whether it is personalized or not, what is acceptable to you, what is their success rate, and how relapses are handled. You must, at all times, feel understood and respected, rather than judged, if you are to build a relationship of trust with them.

How to Support Your Loved Ones

If you want to find alcohol treatment for someone you care about, you are likely to be under a lot of stress. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Alcoholism reports than alcoholism is a family disease, meaning it affects everyone in the unit.

“Alcoholics may have young, teenage, or grown-up children; they have wives or husbands; they have brothers or sisters; they have parents or other relatives. An alcoholic can totally disrupt family life and cause harmful effects that can last a lifetime.”

It is vital, therefore, that you learn how to look after yourself when you have an alcoholic loved one. There are support groups for people like yourself, and your community, your family, and your friends are there to help, too. It is not uncommon for those caring for people with alcoholism to develop depression or anxiety themselves, and they need to seek help for that. The most important thing to remember is that, ultimately, your loved one is responsible for the management of his or her illness.

a happy former alcoholic who is now clean and sober

Alcoholism Treatment can help one become unshackled from the bonds of alcoholism

The Importance of Participation

While your loved one is responsible for finding treatment and taking part in it, a lot of clinical studies have demonstrated that your participation and support is vital in helping that person overcome their drinking problem. That said, you may not know how to best provide this support. The reality is that it is incredibly difficult to change. You must be ready to be patient, and you and your loved one will likely have to make numerous attempts. Those involved in treatment prefer not to refer to failed attempts as “failures”. Rather, they are called “relapses”, which are now even seen as a normal part of recovery.

Every relapse, no matter how bad the consequences are, must be seen as an opportunity to learn. Patience is needed to ensure that those who relapse do not feel wracked with guilt, but rather feel motivated to continue with their efforts. Addiction, at the end of the day, is a chronic illness. Other chronic illnesses, such as asthma and type 2 diabetes, have equally high relapse rates.

How You Can Help the Alcoholic

One thing you can do for your loved one is to acknowledge it whenever an effort is made to do better. It is common for people to feel discouraged or even angry about the behavior of the alcoholic. So much so, in fact, that when they do something right, it is taken for granted. Simply acknowledging an achievement, no matter how small, or simply showing appreciation, can make a huge difference in the overall recovery process.

Please call 1-866-225-8502 if you’d like to talk with someone who can help and provide guidance.  If you are a loved one is struggling with alcoholism there is no need to be alone.

Our hotline is answered 24/7.

Alcoholic Helpline Team – July 3, 2017