When a person realizes that they have an alcohol use disorder, the obvious choice is to seek out rehabilitation. But knowing that and being able to maneuver through all of the treatment types and associated choices isn’t easy.

Did you know that roughly 17 million American adults (18 and older) have a problem with alcohol? One in ten children actually live in a home with a parent who has an alcohol use disorder. The problems are widespread and a lot of people are dealing with them.

If all of these people have a problem, why aren’t all of them in treatment? Well, there are a number of answers.

  • Some don’t want help
  • Others don’t think they can finance it
  • Others have too many other responsibilities

But, there is also a group of people overwhelmed by all the decision making a person has to do in order to get themselves into a program that will work for them.

Hopefully, the information that follows will help readers to better understand alcoholism rehabilitation.

Seek A Doctor’s Advice

Before a person gets into all of the approaches to rehab and various activities offered, they should just start with a simple visit to the doctor. The doctor can also refer people to treatment and help them to understand what goes into the process; the doctor can also prescribe medication that may help with withdrawal and continued abstinence. The doctor will:

  • Assess whether or not a drinking pattern seems to be risky.
  • Assist in putting together a treatment plan.
  • Assess overall health (checking for any other conditions one might have on top of an addiction).
  • Evaluate whether or not medications to treat alcoholism are even appropriate.

In addition to a general practitioner, a person can also begin with:

  • Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Physician’s Assistant
  • Naturopath
  • Psychiatrist or Psychologist
  • Social Worker
  • Alcohol Counsellor
  • Behavioral Treatments

There is no single standard for alcohol rehab. They all tend to have some basics and to develop individual programs around them. One of the basic building blocks of any program is behavioral treatments.

These treatments change drinking behaviors through therapy. Each type of counselling will be led by an expert and the benefits of this method are backed up with research. Data shows that the skills learned during these program remain after the treatment is completed, meaning that they can be called upon to help with continued abstinence.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, behavioral treatments all:

  • Help patients to develop the skills needed to reduce drinking or stop it altogether.
  • Help patients to build a strong support system.
  • Work with patients to set achievable goals.
  • Help patients to cope with or avoid triggers that can lead to relapse.

The following are types of behavioral therapy that are popular in treating alcoholism:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Can take place individually or in groups. This therapy assumes that drinking is the result of a thought process and changing that process can lead to abstinence.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy: Helps people develop motivation to stop drinking over a short period of time. Patients explore the many sides of the issue and create a plan to follow.
  • Marital and Family Counseling: Integrates spouses and other family members in the treatment progression; it plays a significant role in mending and improving family dynamics.
  • Brief Interventions: Are short, sessions that take place individually or in small groups. The patient’s drinking patterns and risks are evaluated and the counselor works to set goals to make changes.

Medication Treatments

There are currently 3 FDA approved medications in the US that are designed to reduce (or stop) drinking and lessen the chance of relapse. They are typically used alongside counselling.

  1. Naltrexone works to reduce heavy drinking patterns.
  2. Acamprosate allows people to abstain more easily.
  3. Disulfiram stops the breakdown of alcohol by the body, leading to unpleasant symptoms like nausea and flushing. This enables people to fight the urge to drink.
Medication won’t be the answer for all people. But, for the people who find them effective, they can be valuable tools in rehabilitation. Researchers are working to expand the number of available pharmaceutical treatments. As more enter the market, people will be able to evaluate multiple options and proceed with the one best suited to their needs.