Alcohol Abuse Treatment

Alcohol abuse treatment is based on several factors. The treatment options for alcohol abuse, alcoholism, and alcohol dependence may vary. Keep reading for more on emergency treatment for alcohol poisoning and withdrawal, and alcohol abuse treatment options.

Alcohol AbuseTreatment

Although alcohol abuse treatment is sometimes avoided out of guilt, fear of legal consequences, or embarrassment, it is always very important, and can even be life-saving, depending on the circumstances. This article covers both emergency treatment and long-term alcohol abuse treatment.

There are three main situations in which emergency alcohol abuse treatment is needed. The first is too much alcoholic beverage, whether from binge drinking, or just exceeding the body’s capacity to metabolize the alcohol ingested. The second is poisoning from methanol (also called methyl alcohol), or wood alcohol, or from ethylene glycol, mainly known as an ingredient of antifreeze. The third is withdrawal from alcohol, which has its own set of dangers.

Emergency Alcohol Abuse Treatment for Alcohol (Ethanol) Poisoning

  • Ensuring open airway
  • Intravenous fluids to prevent or address dehydration
  • Gastric lavage may or may not be used to remove any alcohol that has not yet been metabolized

Emergency Alcohol Abuse Treatment of  Methanol or Ethylene Glycol Poisoning

  • Gastric lavage may be used if the patient is seen soon after the alcohol was ingested
  • Hemodialysis to compensate for kidney failure which is associated with methanol/ethylene glycol ingestion
  • Administration of Fomepizole to keep toxic metabolites from forming has largely replaced ethanol therapy

 or Alcohol Withdrawal

  • Antiseizure and/or antianxiety medication to allay withdrawal symptoms
  • B vitamins

 Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse and Dependence

Treatment for alcohol abuse and dependence is a long-term proposition, and may involve several stages and several types of treatment. Initially, there is likely to be a screening stage. Subsequent treatment may include medication, counseling, education, and support groups. Family therapy, counseling, or support groups are often helpful, since an entire family is affected by one member’s abuse.


Long-term treatment for alcohol may be initiated by a screening, which is meant to identify the patient’s state of mind, understanding of his or her problem, and openness to change. Part of the purpose of screening is to distinguish alcohol abuse from alcohol dependency as they can be separate issues (i.e., someone can abuse alcohol without being dependent). Some of the screening instruments include:

  • Alcohol Abstinence Self-Efficacy (AASE)
  • Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT)
  • Cut-down, Annoyed, Guilt, Eye-Opener (CAGE)
  • Readiness to Change (RTC)

As patients recover from alcoholism they are sometimes assisted with medications that suppress the enjoyable effects of alcohol.


Medication can assist will power in making it possible to stay sober. Different medications have different effects, but all are meant to help patients adhere to the recovery plan. They are meant to be used in conjunction with counseling, and no plan should be based on medication alone.

  • Acamprosate reduces cravings for alcohol.
  • Disulfiram slows the body’s pleasurable response to alcohol and creates nausea when alcohol is ingested.
  • Naltrexone reduces the pleasurable effects of alcohol consumption.

Other medical treatment may be indicated if other substances were being abused or if the abuse of alcohol caused any other physical problems.


The counseling setting may be the one in which education about alcohol also takes place. Different types of counseling are available, and it is important to choose a treatment program that meshes well with the client’s personality and issues. Teens who have been involved in DUI/DWI or have other legal issues related to their use of alcohol, may have other, court-ordered components to their treatment program as well.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy treats the immediate elements that precipitate abuse of alcohol: the clients way of thinking about alcohol and behavior patterns that include alcohol.
  • 12-step therapy treats the client not only as a person who needs help, but also as standing in relationship to a higher power, who is enlisted in the course of the therapy. There are both 12-step programs that employ professional therapists and those that rely on recovered alcoholics from the community.

            Support Groups

Alcoholics Anonymous is a twelve step recovery group in which alcohol abusers receive guidance and support from alcoholics who have succeeded in stopping their use of alcohol. Al-Anon, which has a 12-step recovery program based on Alcoholics Anonymous, is family-focused and has a specially designed teen support group called Alateen. These groups provide support in a setting in which anonymity is respected. There are other groups as well.

Finding a Treatment Center

The National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) is a resource both for educational information about alcohol, as well as information about treatment programs on their links page.



Related Article: Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse >>