Alcohol addiction or alcoholism is a disease in which an individual experiences an intense craving or compulsive need to consume alcohol. Effective alcohol addiction treatment programs often combine a variety of techniques, including medications to reduce craving. Psychological support methods, such as behavioral counseling, are also very commonly used in alcohol addiction treatment. Experts note that alcohol addiction is a very complex disease and that treatment should address all of the related social and emotional issues a patient may be experiencing, and not just the problem of alcohol use.
There are currently several prescription medications that can be used in alcohol addiction treatment. One of these, naltrexone, helps with alcohol addiction treatment by reducing the cravings an addict may have for alcohol; this may reduce the desire to drink. Another medication, acamprosate, helps alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal, including anxiety and sleep disturbances. Disulfiram is a medication that causes unpleasant reactions, such as increased heart rate, nausea, and vomiting, when a patient drinks.
Experts note that medications commonly used in alcohol addiction treatment are most effective when they are combined with behavioral counseling. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a psychological treatment method commonly used in alcohol addiction treatment to help patients understand what prompts them to drink and how they can best abstain from alcohol. Family therapy is a counseling method that is also frequently used in alcohol addiction treatment to help alcoholics and their families to address the wide variety of issues that result from problem drinking. Patients may also benefit from participation in support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, which offer meetings at which people can come together for discussions and activities that often help support abstinence.
In the case of serious and ongoing alcohol addiction, professionals may recommend that a patient seek alcohol addiction treatment in a residential facility. Residential treatment programs offer very structured therapeutic programs that typically last from 30 days to 12 months. Clients in a residential program are often required to participate in group, individual, and family psychotherapy, and, depending on the treatment program, a client may also be required to participate in a 12-step recovery meetings such as those offered by Alcoholics Anonymous. Once patients have completed a residential treatment program, they will often transition into an outpatient treatment program, which will continue to combine treatment methods such as prescription medication and counseling to support the patient's continued abstinence from alcohol.