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Substance Abuse and Addiction - Treatment Overview

Treatment for alcohol abuse and dependence usually includes group therapy, one or more types of counseling, and alcohol education. You also may need medicine. A 12-step program often is part of treatment and continues after treatment ends.

Treatment doesn't just deal with alcohol. It will help you manage problems in your daily life so you don't have to depend on alcohol. You'll learn good reasons to quit drinking.

Treatment helps you overcome dependence, but it doesn't happen all at once. Recovery from alcohol abuse or dependence—staying sober—is a lifelong process that takes commitment and effort.

Can you quit on your own?

If you are abusing alcohol and are not dependent on it, you may be able to cut back or quit on your own. But most people need help when they quit drinking.

actionset.gif Alcohol Problems: How to Stop Drinking

If you want to quit, talk to your doctor. When you get a doctor's help, treatment for alcohol abuse or dependence is safer, less painful, and quicker. If you can't stop drinking alcohol with just your doctor's help, a treatment program can help you get through the first cravings for alcohol and learn how to stay sober.

How does treatment start?

You might start treatment with your family doctor, or your doctor may recommend that you enter a treatment facility. A friend may bring you to a self-help group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, or you might go to a clinic that deals with alcohol abuse. You may just decide that you drink too much and want to cut back or quit on your own.

You may have a treatment team to help you. This team may include a psychologist or psychiatrist, counselors, doctors, social workers, nurses, and a case manager. A case manager helps plan and manage your treatment.

When you first seek treatment, you may be asked questions about your drinking, health problems, work, and living situation. Be open and honest to get the best treatment possible. Your treatment team may write a treatment plan, which includes your treatment goals and ways to reach those goals. This helps you stay on track.

Do you need detox?

Your doctor may decide you need detoxification, or detox, before you start treatment. You need detox when you are physically addicted to alcohol. This means that when you stop drinking, you have physical withdrawal symptoms, such as feeling sick to your stomach or intense anxiety.

Detox helps get you ready for treatment. It doesn't help you with the mental, social, and behavior changes you have to make to get and stay sober.

Whether you need detox and whether you can go through it at home or need to go to a clinic or other facility depends on how severe your withdrawal symptoms are. Most people don't need to stay at a clinic but do need to check in with a doctor or other health professional. Whether you need to spend time in a clinic (called inpatient care) also depends on other problems you may have, such as a mental health problem.

Your doctor may give you medicines to help reduce withdrawal symptoms.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 17, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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