The best treatment for alcohol addiction is the one that works. Exactly what that is depends on each individual, and there are several treatments that may help end physical and emotional addiction to this powerful drug. Just as important as a specific treatment may be the individual’s desire to quit drinking. Without strong motivation, many people return to drinking because they don’t have sufficient willpower, support, or the readiness to abstain. When an alcoholic has the motivation to succeed, there are a number of treatments that have all been shown to be useful.
Initial treatment for alcohol addiction means quitting drinking in some sort of protected environment. Especially when people have been using alcohol for a long time, the withdrawal process can be physically dangerous and is best not undertaken alone. People recovering can undergo delirium tremens (DTs), which can be life threatening. Thus beginning treatment of alcohol addiction should involve finding a safe place like an alcohol detox center or a hospital so people can be closely monitored the first few days after quitting.
Many people are most attracted to using a center for treatment of alcohol addiction, which can help treat initial withdrawal and then engage people in a program for several weeks to months. People usually live at the center and may have lesser or greater privileges to leave or have visitors, depending on the program. Drug and alcohol treatment facilities can be expensive, and an alternative many people use is to first get medical help for withdrawal and then use free programs like Alcoholics Anonymous to get the ongoing support they need to remain dry.
While Alcoholics Anonymous is peer-led, there are other support groups offering treatment for alcohol addiction, led by therapists or drug and alcohol counselors. Expert guidance in groups may be preferred. Such groups can be particularly helpful when alcoholics suffer from a dual diagnosis, such as a combination of alcohol addiction and mental illness.
When an expert-led group isn’t available, another treatment for alcohol addiction is mental health therapy, where any mental illness, neuroses, or personality disorders can be addressed along with issues of alcoholism. For certain mental illnesses, having a psychiatrist may be vital too, since many alcoholics have used alcohol to cover conditions like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, and these are best treated with psychiatric medicines. A regular physician could also be of use because there are drugs available that cause illness if combined with alcohol, and some people find these helpful.
Generally, recovering alcoholics use more than a single treatment for alcohol addiction. They might attend Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and have a private therapist. Some alcoholics first stay at a center and then use meetings thereafter to support continued sobriety. A number of configurations are possible, but the most important goal is to find the combination that works. Most find they need ongoing support, in some form or another, to stay sober, because alcoholism is both physical and mental. Ending physical addiction generally doesn’t address the ongoing emotional need to drink.