Completely stopping the use of alcohol is the ideal goal of treatment. This is called abstinence. A strong social network and family support are important in achieving this.
Completely stopping and avoiding alcohol is difficult for many people with alcoholism. There will be times when it is difficult. You should aim to avoid drinking for as long as possible.
Some people who abuse alcohol may be able to simply reduce the amount they drink. This is called drinking in moderation. If this method does not work, you should try to quit drinking completely.
DECIDING TO QUIT
Many people with alcohol problems do not recognize when their drinking gets out of hand.
The ideal approach to treatment is to help the person realize how much their alcohol use is harming their life and those around them.
Studies find that more people with alcohol problems opt for treatment when their family members or employers are honest with them about their concerns, and try to help them see that drinking is preventing them from reaching their goals.
Withdrawal from alcohol is best done in a controlled, supervised setting. Complications from withdrawal can be life threatening. For more information, see: Alcohol withdrawal
Your health care provider should order blood and urine tests to check for health problems that are common in people who abuse alcohol.
Alcohol recovery or support programs can help you stop drinking completely. These programs usually offer:
- Counseling and therapy to discuss alcoholism and its effects and how to control your thoughts and behaviors
- Mental health support
- Medical care
You may be treated in a special recovery center (inpatient), or you may attend a program while you live at home (outpatient).
Medications are sometimes prescribed to prevent you from drinking again.
- Acamprosate is a drug that has been shown to lower relapse rates in those who are alcohol dependent.
- Disulfiram (Antabuse) produces very unpleasant side effects if you drink even a small amount of alcohol within 2 weeks after taking the drug.
- Naltrexone (Vivitrol) decreases alcohol cravings. It is available in an injectable form.
You cannot take these medications if you are pregnant or have certain medical conditions. The medications are often used with long-term treatment with counseling or support groups.
Depression or other mood or anxiety disorders may be noticed after you stop drinking. These should be promptly treated.
It is important that the patient has a living situation that supports their need to avoid alcohol. Some programs offer housing options for people with alcoholism or alcohol abuse.