Alcohol Treatment Programs


Similar to other diseases, alcoholism can be overcome with proper treatment, prevention, relevant educational programs, and increased research efforts.

As serious as alcoholism is, fortunately it can be effectively treated in most instances.

As a general rule, alcohol treatment includes a combination of doctor-prescribed medications, education, support, and intensive therapy and counseling to help an individual stop drinking, stay sober, and start the recovery process.

In fact, this combination may be the current best treatment scenario.

Stated differently, after treating problem drinkers and helping them overcome their addiction via medications, education, and support, counseling and follow-up rehab can then teach them how to make the necessary lifestyle changes that will help them avoid an alcohol relapse and remain sober.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence and alcohol addiction, is a progressive debilitating disease.


This essentially means that the disease gets increasingly worse as the individual continues to drink.

Alcoholism has been widely researched and includes the following four well-known symptoms.

  • Physical dependence: withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, "the shakes," anxiety, headaches, and perspiration when refraining from alcohol.

  • Tolerance: the need to drink increasingly more alcohol in order to get a "buzz" or to feel "high."

  • Craving: having a strong urge or need to drink.

  • Loss of control: an inability to stop drinking after the first drink.

Alcohol Treatment Programs: A Straightforward Overview

Similar to other diseases and medical conditions, alcoholism can be overcome with quality treatment, prevention, and increased research efforts.

Indeed, with better access to effective alcohol treatment programs, the costly drain on society and the financial, psychological, and physical impediments that alcoholism places on families can be significantly reduced or minimized.

In fact, alcoholism research studies reveal strong evidence that successful alcohol treatment programs and alcoholism prevention efforts result in major reductions in hearth disease, child abuse, wanted pregnancy, strokes, HIV, crime, cancer, and traffic fatalities.

Furthermore, effective alcohol treatment programs and drug abuse approaches improves the quality of life, job performance, and heath while at the same time reducing drug abuse, family dysfunction, and involvement with the criminal justice system.

As serious as alcoholism is, fortunately it can be treated. Alcohol treatment programs typically include a combination of counseling and doctor-prescribed medications to help an individual abstain from drinking alcohol.

Even though most alcoholics need professional help to recover from their dependency, alcoholism research scientists have found that with support and top-flight alcohol treatment programs, numerous people are able to stop drinking and restore their lives.

Alcohol Treatment Programs: Withdrawal Symptoms

A variety of different techniques are available for treating alcohol withdrawal. Whereas some of these approaches employ drugs, many, conversely, do not.

In fact, according to some of the current alcoholism research, the most effective way to treat mild withdrawal symptoms is without medications.

Such non-drug detox and alcohol treatment programs utilize screening and extensive social support all through the withdrawal process.

Other non-drug detoxification and alcohol treatment programs, moreover, employ vitamin therapy (especially thiamin) and proper nutrition when treating mild withdrawal symptoms.

Mild to Moderate Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The following list represents mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms that usually take place within 6 to 48 hours after the last alcoholic drink:

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Pulsating headaches

  • Sleeping difficulties

  • Looking pale

  • Enlarged or dilated pupils

  • Tremor of the hands

  • Vomiting

  • Loss of appetite

  • Clammy skin

  • Nausea

  • Abnormal movements

  • Involuntary movements of the eyelids

  • Sweating (especially on the palms of the hands or on the face)

Severe Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The following is a list of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms that usually occur within 48 to 96 hours after the last alcoholic drink:

  • Fever

  • Convulsions

  • Visual hallucinations

  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

  • Seizures

  • Muscle tremors

  • Black outs

  • Severe autonomic nervous system overactivity

Teenagers and Alcohol Treatment Programs

Alcohol treatment programs are especially important concerning teenagers.

More precisely, if a teenager or a parent of a teenager can read about, comprehend, and internalize some of the key facts and issues about teenage alcoholism, they might be able to avoid the damaging results that are associated with teen alcohol abuse and teenage alcoholism in school, college, or in the workplace.

More contact with relevant information also means that our youth may be able to avoid alcohol treatment programs before they ever become an issue.

Alcohol Treatment Programs: Traditional Approaches

Numerous "traditional" alcohol treatment programs are currently available and employed in different therapeutic settings.

Indeed, the following alcohol treatment programs and therapies will be discussed:

  • Outpatient Alcoholism Treatment and Counseling

  • Detoxification

  • Behavioral Treatment

  • Therapeutic Medications

  • Residential Alcoholism Treatment Programs

  • Family and Marital Counseling

Outpatient Alcoholism Treatment and Counseling. There are numerous counseling methodologies that teach alcoholics how to become aware of the emotional and situational "hot buttons" that trigger their drinking behavior.

Equipped with this knowledge, people can consequently learn about the different ways in which they can manage particular circumstances that do not include the use of alcohol.

Usually, programs such as these are offered on an outpatient basis.

Detoxification. Alcohol detoxification is the process of letting the body rid itself of alcohol while controlling the withdrawal symptoms in a harm-free manner.

Alcohol detox treatment is usually done under the supervision of a medical doctor and is frequently employed as the first step in alcohol treatment programs.

Due to the time needed for a thorough detoxification process, moreover, these programs are typically part of an inpatient alcohol rehab program.

Behavioral Treatments such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Motivation Enhancement Therapy.

It is enlightening to note that according to a study undertaken by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, it was found that each one of these three behavioral treatment approaches significantly reduced drinking in patients one year after treatment.

Even though all three of these programs were considered "successful," none of them, interestingly, could be classified as "the best" treatment for alcohol addiction.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Alcoholics Anonymous is a mutual support program for recovering alcoholics that is based on the 12-steps of recovery that are necessary in order for people to remain sober.

Support and assistance are provided by the meetings that regularly convene.

Is Alcoholics Anonymous the best strategy for the treatment of alcoholism?

While Alcoholics Anonymous has proven itself to be an effective alcoholism treatment approach, many practitioners outside of Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as many members within AA believe that Alcoholics Anonymous is most effective when combined with other forms of treatment such as medical care and psychotherapy.

Motivation Enhancement Therapy (MET) is a systematic therapeutic protocol that is basically the total opposite of Alcoholics Anonymous in that it employs motivational strategies to stimulate the person's own change mechanisms.

Some of the main features of MET are the following:

  • Helping the client achieve self-efficacy or a sense of optimism

  • Therapist empathy

  • Providing feedback regarding the personal risks or damage associated with the abuse

  • Providing the client with a number of alternative change options

  • Receiving clear advice to make healthy changes

  • Emphasis on taking personal responsibility for positive change

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). There are several forms of cognitive behavior therapy.

Most of them, however, share the following characteristics:

  • CBT is a mutually shared effort between the therapist and the client.

  • CBT uses the Socratic Method that is based on the asking of questions for insight.

  • CBT theory and techniques rely on the Inductive Method. This method has clients look at their thoughts as hypotheses (or suggested explanations) that can be tested and questioned. If clients discover that their hypotheses are incorrect, they can then change their thoughts and feelings to be more in line with reality.

  • In CBT, a solid therapeutic relationship is necessary but not the primary focal point for effective therapy.

  • CBT approaches are based on the cognitive model of emotional response. That is, if we change the way we think, we can act and feel better, even if the situation doesn't change.

  • CBT is based on an educational model that views most emotions and behavioral reactions as learned responses. Thus, the therapeutic goal in to help the client unlearn undesirable reactions and emotions and replace them with new and more positive ways of feeling and reacting.

  • Homework is a central feature of CBT.

  • CBT is structured and directive.

  • CBT usually has therapeutic sessions that are briefer and fewer in number than most other forms of therapy.

  • CBT is based on stoic philosophy. CBT does not tell clients how they should feel. Rather, this form of therapy focuses on helping clients learn how to think more logically and effectively.

Therapeutic Medications. Recent research findings strongly suggest that the drugs with the highest likelihood of producing effective results when treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms are the benzodiazepines.

Examples include the shorter-acting benzodiazepines such as Ativan and Serax and the longer-acting benzodiazepines such as Valium and Librium.

After a person overcomes his or her withdrawal symptoms, other doctor-prescribed medications such as disulfiram (Antabuse) or naltrexone (ReViaT) can be prescribed to help prevent the person from returning to drinking after he or she has suffered a relapse. Simply put, with this approach, doctors prescribe drugs to treat alcohol dependency.

For instance, antabuse is administered to alcoholics and elicits negative effects such as vomiting, flushing, nausea, and dizziness if alcohol is ingested. Obviously, antabuse "works" so well mainly because it is a strong and efficient deterrent.

Naltrexone (ReViaT), on the other hand, is used in a dissimilar manner in that it targets the brain's reward circuits and is effective because it reduces the alcoholic's craving for alcohol.

Residential Alcohol Treatment Programs and Inpatient Alcohol Rehab. If the individual's withdrawal symptoms are excessive, if a person needs alcohol poisoning treatment, if outpatient programs or support-oriented programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous are not effective, or if there's a need for alcohol AND drug abuse treatment, the person typically has to register into a hospital or into a residential alcohol treatment facility and receive inpatient alcohol rehabilitation treatment.

Programs such as these are geared for alcohol dependent inpatients and typically include doctor-prescribed medications to help the alcoholic get through the alcohol detoxification and the alcohol withdrawal treatment process in a safe and harm-free manner.

Family and Marital Counseling. Since the recovery process is so intrinsically tied to the support the alcoholic receives from his or her family, many alcohol addiction programs include marital therapy and family counseling as essential components in the treatment process.

Such therapeutic approaches, moreover, also provide alcoholics with basic community resources such as financial management courses, childcare classes, parenting courses, job training, and legal assistance.

Alcohol Treatment Programs: Alternative Therapies

Although the research findings are not conclusive, there are a number of alternative treatment approaches for alcohol addiction that are becoming more widely used, more available, and more researched.

Examples include the following therapies that have been proposed as "natural" forms of alcohol addiction treatment: "Drumming out Drugs" (a form of therapy that employs the use of drumming by clients, the holistic and naturalistic approaches employed by Traditional Chinese Medicine, and various vitamin, mineral and supplement therapies.

As promising and encouraging as these alternative approaches have been, more research, nevertheless, is required to ascertain their effectiveness and to determine whether or not these alcohol treatment programs offer long term success.

Conclusion: Alcohol Treatment

Although a cure for alcoholism has not been discovered, many alcohol therapeutic methodologies and treatment programs, however, exist that help alcoholics recover from alcohol addiction.

Simply put, there is a lot of information about alcohol treatment programs that is available both online and offline.

Regarding alcohol treatment, some individuals are sure to ask the following question: "What are the best and the most effective alcohol treatment programs that are available today"?

Like any chronic disease or medical condition, however, there are many different levels of success regarding alcohol treatment programs.

For instance, some alcoholics experience relatively long periods of sobriety after receiving treatment, and then experience a drinking relapse. Other alcoholics, after treatment, abstain from drinking and remain sober.

And still other alcoholics cannot abstain from drinking alcohol for any sustainable period of time, regardless of what type of treatment they receive.


By the way, it should be pointed out that all of these "treatment outcomes" are common with every known type of alcohol treatment approach.

In any event, one key point about alcohol treatment programs, however, is certain: the longer an individual abstains from drinking alcohol, the more likely he or she will be able to remain sober and possibly avoid alcohol treatment programs before they becomes a concern.

Having said this, if you are interested in talking with a counselor at a drug and alcohol rehab facility, please call your local drug and alcohol treatment center today.