How to treat alcoholism
In many cases, the first step of treating alcoholism is acknowledging there is a problem. As with many health problems the second step is to seek help from a healthcare professional, like your local GP who can refer you to a specialist.
Or, try the alcohol support services available. Mutual help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is widely available, free and there is no waiting list: just phone their helpline (0800 9177 650), turn up and watch how they help each other.
A doctor will diagnose alcoholism when three or more of the following have been present together in the past year1:
- An overwhelming desire to drink
- An inability to stop or to control harmful drinking
- Withdrawal symptoms when stopping drinking
- Evidence of alcohol tolerance
- Pursuing the consumption of alcohol to the exclusion of alternative pleasures
- Continuing to drink despite clear evidence of harmful consequences
There are different treatments available for people diagnosed with alcoholism but a key stage of treatment is detoxification.
Detox involves stopping drinking completely so that the body can adjust to being without alcohol. During this time, a person may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Ongoing treatment generally falls into one of three main camps:
Psychological and psychosocial treatments can involve counselling to help you understand and change your attitude towards drinking.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can also be offered to help change negative thought patterns which lead to drinking.
Mutual help such as AA help partly because of the new network of support a person gains and also because people adjust their thinking and their attitudes to themselves and others.
Pharmacological treatments (i.e. medications) can also have a role in preventing relapse for some people who are trying to abstain, or trying to reduce their drinking.
Practical ways to reduce alcohol consumption