There are many different treatments available to help treat alcohol abuse and consequent addiction. The very first step in any treatment program is the alcoholic admitting the problems they have controlling their drinking. This is vital – person with the problem must accept and realise they need help for themselves, not for anyone else but for themselves.

Self help and support groups

Abstinence from alcohol is the ultimate goal to recovery from alcohol. In order to help learn to live a more sober life you can take steps to help yourself. Joining a self-help group can provide great support in breaking an addiction. 12 step Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous have proven to help beat alcohol addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous does not have any membership requirement other than a genuine desire to stop drinking. It is free, with members being asked only to donate what they can towards the running costs of their local meeting.

Helping yourself

It is a good idea to ask for family and friends for their support in helping to stop problem drinking. It may also help you if you avoid places, and people, that encourage drinking and spend more time with friends who don’t drink, or make new ones. Take up a new hobby that encourages you to spend time away from drinking and find new interests. These are positive steps to take, to help free you from alcohol addiction.

Start looking after yourself properly – eat well, drink more and take some exercise. Exercise is proven to be beneficial, even a short walk in the evening can have positive physical effects and may help you sleep better.  Do not embark on a new exercise regime without consulting your GP first.

Stopping drinking and withdrawal

When you are ready to stop drinking you should seek professional help. Each individual needs individual treatment. If you have been a very heavy drinker then stopping very suddenly can pose fatal risks to your health. There is help available both n the NHS and privately that can help you stop drinking safely. This will help you withdraw safely and be treated in the most appropriate way with professional supervision.

Residential Treatment

There are many benefits to residential rehabilitation. This period of recovery may last from a few weeks to several months depending on the degree of alcohol addiction.

Residential treatment centres offers the recovering alcoholic the opportunity to “get away from it all.” This can help break drinking rituals and habits, and gives time to have a break from everyday life and concentrate fully, without any distraction, on getting better.

Where a person receives Outpatient treatment, they may benefit from excellent professional care during the day, but can struggle with returning home in the evenings, with the temptations of drink in everyday life difficult to resist.

24 hour, round the clock supervision is another benefit of a stay at an alcohol treatment centre. The person being treated will receive round the clock care from a dedicated team of professional who have wide experience in treating alcohol addiction. Care will include everything from medication (if required,) counselling to nutrition advice and an exercise plan.

Counselling and Therapy

Counsellors and therapists are on call 24 hours a day to be there for patients when they need them. They will also provide regular counselling sessions to look at the reasons to why someone drinks, the reasons behind it and any underlying problems they may have. Rehabilitation is not complete without counselling.

Peer support can prove an excellent help on the road to recovery in residential rehabilitation centres. Friendships forged with those in the same position can last a lifetime. Peer support is recognised as a proven way to aid recovery; a fellow recovering alcoholic is uniquely placed to help another recovering alcoholic. Realising they are “not alone” can be a major turning point in rehabilitation.

Residential centres allow the problem drinking time to withdraw and start their journey to sobriety in a safe environment. For those who need closer medical supervision, this may be the only safe option.

Outpatient treatment

Outpatient treatment for alcohol addiction usually involves receiving treatment during the day and the returning back to your own home in the evening. This can be difficult for some people as it is not so easy to avoid alcohol and stay away from drinking in everyday life. It is wise to spend time away from drinking and occasions that will involve alcohol for a while especially in the initial stages of recovery.

Treatment for alcohol addiction in an out- patient clinic will include counselling and therapy to help understand and overcome habitual problem drinking.  Outpatient treatment will also provide strong peer support amongst the treatment group, which is beneficial to successfully beating alcohol addiction. Peer support is helpful in alleviating the feelings of isolation a problem drinker has, and to have someone understand exactly what they are feeling too can be of great solace.

Medication to treat Alcohol Addiction

There are different medications with different purposes used to treat alcoholics in their road to recovery. Medication alone is ineffective and needs counselling or therapy to help the problem drinker stay away from alcohol.

Some of the different drugs used are Acamprosate, which may help fight the overpowering cravings for alcohol and, naltrexone which works on the opioid receptors in the body, changing its response to alcohol. Another, Disulfiram, works by making the body have a series of reactions to alcohol such as sickness and other unpleasant side effects in order to make the drinker be unable to tolerate alcoholic beverages. Medicated treatment should always be carried out under the strict supervision of health professionals.

Sober for Life

A family member who has problems with alcohol will take time to recover from the damaging effects of heavy drinking – and staying sober is a lifelong process. It may be a case of trial an error as what works for one person may not work for another. Taking one day at a time and receiving help can allow the former alcoholic to live a happy and addiction free life.

*This article was updated to include info on Propranolol:

Related feature: New drug to stop cravings in alcohol addiction

Cambridge University scientists are planning a clinical trial to test whether Propranolol, a drug used in the treatment of heart and circulatory conditions may block cravings for alcohol in those with an addiction. The drug is a beta-blocker and thus known to alleviate anxiety. A study on rats has been completed and evidenced that Propranolol could wipe a stimulus from the rats’ brain when it was craving a drink.

How does it work?

It is anticipated that the prescription drug could help alcoholics forget their cravings and consequently stop drinking in the long term. Scientists believe that subconscious cravings can be eradicated by preventing thoughts of past usage and experiences that ultimately lead to drinking. It is considered that the drug can eradicate triggers of emotional memories linked to addictive behaviours.

How long until it’s available?

The clinical trial is funded by the Medical Research Council for a 5 year study into the drug and its effects. If successful this seemingly simple treatment could offer much hope for those whose lives are seriously harmed by their alcoholism.

Dr Amy Milton, one of the leading scientists in the study, said: “Traditionally, memory was viewed as similar to a book, which can be shelved but never changed once printed. We now think that memory is more like a word processing document – you can save it and then recall it, at which point you can adapt or even delete its contents.”