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Medication or Therapy: What Are the Best Modern Treatments for Alcohol Abuse?

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Alcohol abuse is one of the most complicated mental health issues in the world. Although it can be easy to fall into addiction, getting over alcohol dependency is never straightforward. Like many addictive drugs, alcohol causes changes in your brain that makes it tremendously challenging to quit.  

The good news, however, is that medical advancements and research have made it possible to treat alcoholism. Statistics show that more than 30 percent of people that get treatment make a full recovery less than one year later, and many others report fewer alcohol-related issues. Therefore, regardless of how severe your problem may seem, you can start making positive steps towards recovery with treatment.

Signs That You May Need Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

If you’re at a point where you feel unable to control the urge to drink and become ill when you try to stop suddenly, it’s time to seek treatment. Some signs that you’re nearing the addiction threshold include continually thinking about drinking, avoiding non-users in favor of other users, neglecting the activities that were once part of your life, and increased expressions of concern from your loved ones.

The first step of recovering from alcoholism is realizing you have a problem and deciding to get treatment. You can start by talking to a primary care physician, who will likely be a useful source for referrals and possible medications.

Treatment Choices for Alcohol Addiction

The option that is right for you depends on the severity of your addiction and your goals. If you’re only trying to minimize your drinking, then medication and behavioral adjustments can be enough for you. On the other hand, if you want to quit entirely, you may want to make use of a recovery program offered by an organization like the ARC Project, with which you will get a combination of treatments, including rehabilitation services.


Some people seeking professional help against alcoholism get surprised to learn that medications to treat alcohol dependency exist. These medicines work by offsetting the changes that alcohol addiction causes in the brain. All approved medications are non-addictive, and you can use them alone or with other treatment forms.

The three medicines that are typically used to treat alcoholism are Naltrexone, Acamprosate, and Disulfiram. Naltrexone removes the motivation to drink by blocking the high you get from alcohol, Acamprosate reduces the irresistible urge to drink and makes it easier to maintain abstinence, while Disulfiram prevents alcohol metabolism in the body and induces symptoms like nausea and flushing of the skin, which can help you to avoid drinking.

Although none of these medications can “cure” alcoholism, they can be essential recovery tools. Scientists are working on widening the menu of pharmaceutical treatments to better cater to individual needs.


Most recovering alcoholics find that medication works best when combined with counseling. Besides tuning the chemicals in your body, you also need to learn some new skills and strategies that will help you change your lifestyle. A therapist or counselor can be the helping hand you need to stop the behaviors that make you want to drink, deal with triggers, and set and achieve goals.

Some people recover after a short, focused therapy session, while others require substantial counseling to deal with issues like depression or anxiety. Alcoholism can also affect the people close to you, so, family or couples’ therapy can help too.

In addition to one-on-one therapy, you may also want to join a support group to interact with others that are on the same path as you, and listen to success stories that will give you hope.

Overcoming alcohol addiction is a long and challenging journey that requires determination, discipline, and ongoing treatment. Regardless of your treatment of choice, be it medication, therapy, or both, what matters is that you’re getting help.