What are treatment options for alcoholism?

Updated: Nov 27, 2018
  • Author: Warren Thompson, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
  • Print
Answer

Further treatment of alcoholism involves the following:

  • Complete abstinence is the only treatment for alcohol dependence

  • Emphasize that the most common error is underestimating the amount of help needed to stop drinking

  • Hospitalize patients if they have a history of delirium tremens or if they have significant comorbidity

  • Consider inpatient treatment if the patient has poor social support, significant psychiatric problems, or a history of relapse after treatment

  • Strongly recommend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

  • Encourage hospitalized patients to call AA from the hospital; AA will send someone to talk to them if the patient makes the contact

  • Patients need to attend AA meetings regularly (daily at first) and for a sufficient length of time (usually 2 years or more) because recovery is a difficult and lengthy process

  • In the beginning of treatment, and perhaps ongoing, patients should remove alcohol from their homes and avoid bars and other establishments where strong pressures to drink may hinder abstinence

  • If the patient has an antisocial personality (ie, severe problems with family, peers, school, and police before age 15 years and before the onset of alcohol problems), recovery is less likely

  • If the patient has primary depression, anxiety disorder, or another potentially contributory disorder (the other disorder must antedate the problems with alcohol or it must be a significant problem during long periods of sobriety), treat this primary problem aggressively

See Treatment and Medication for more detail.


Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!