treating alcohol addiction

according to, there is more and more agreement that alcohol abuse occurs on a continuum. it needs to be treated accordingly; traditional methods of helping alcoholics work for less than half of them. project MATCH, a project involving over 80 therapists, is now looking at ways to match patient preferences with different kinds of therapy. as many of you know, that is one of my pet peeves: therapy absolutely needs to be tailored to your needs; one size does not fit all.

as the field moves away from all-or-nothing thinking about alcohol use, some interesting findings emerge, for example:

support from friends and family
as i mentioned in a previous post, peer and family support may be the “missing link” that allows some alcoholics to quit on their own, without any formal treatment. of course, this support does not mean continued enabling of the drinking; however, it can create enthusiasm and trust in both the drinker, her family and friends that a life without alcohol is possible.

mental health
around 20% of people who have problems with alcohol are dealing with mental health issues and may be attempting to medicate these with alcohol. finding more appropriate ways to help with these psychiatric problems can help with both the alcohol abuse and the mental illness.

your father’s genes
one of the key genetic factors in alcoholism is an ability to metabolize liquor too well, because of the presence of the liver enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase. indeed, a common trait among alcoholics is the early ability to “drink others under the table.” of course, that does not mean that this applies to everyone. an alcohol-dependent man i knew a while ago could get very drunk after three beers.

just as in smoking, motivation to quit reigns supreme. research shows that brief, motivationally based interventions, where counsellors work with patients for one to four sessions can be as effective as far more intensive therapy.

quitting without help
20% of alcoholics can and do quit successfully on their own. researchers are just beginning to explore what is “special” about them and how to apply it to all alcoholics.

readjustment and relapse prevention
no matter where and how an alcoholic recovers, this powerfully complex condition imposes three requirements for recovery:

  • high, sustained motivation to stop drinking
  • readjustment to — and building — a life that includes family and peer support;
  • and relapse prevention based on specific, well-rehearsed strategies of “cue” avoidance.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

(this article was part of the 18th brain blogging carnival)

26 thoughts on “treating alcohol addiction

  1. Carol

    All addictions need treatment out of which this treatment is a must and seems to be working. I would like to see how others react to the same.

  2. No Abusive Drinking

    I agree, one size does not fit all, especially when it comes to alcoholism treatment. A key factor in any alcohol recovery program is this: first, alcoholics have to admit that they have a drinking problem and then they have to find a treatment program they can buy into and one that works for them.

  3. No Addictions

    Your points are well taken. Support from peers and family members is a key treatment factor. Genetic factors certainly have to play an important part in a person’s predisposition for becoming an alcoholic. Perhaps the key factor, however, is a person’s motivation to quit drinking AND the ability to re-build his or her life in a more healthy and productive manner. Without the desire to stop drinking, support, genetics, and the best treatment in the world probably won’t make a significant difference.

  4. isabella mori

    i see that the last two comments come from the same writer.

    i’m not entirely sure that the desire to stop drinking and/or admitting that one has a problem always needs to come first.

    sometimes people stop or dramatically decrease their drinking because it’s causing someone else a problem.

    what’s important, i believe, is MOTIVATION to stop drinking – whatever it is.

  5. Ada

    Some interesting facts. One of my friends is a heavy drinker and I’m doing my best to support him and asking him to try some form of therapy or alcohol rehab. My girlfriend is also a smoker so I’m trying to encourage her to quit too. But they both seem to simply lack motivation because they don’t realise how bad these things are for them no matter how hard I try. But still, I keep trying.

  6. No Abusive Drinking

    The post by Ada is probably something that could be repeated by countless numbers of people who are concerned about the health of a friend who for whatever reason refuses to stop their abusive and/or addictive behavior.

    Counseling and education are important aspects of many drug and alcohol abuse and addiction treatment programs. Perhaps Ada’s friend who is a heavy drinker and Ada’s girlfriend who is a smoker can get some counseling to address their reluctance to get professional treatment for their abusive behavior. Effective counseling may then provide a stepping-stone to the possibility of treatment.

  7. No Abusive Drinking

    In my last post, I forgot to mention another important issue. Ada mentioned that he or she supports and encourages his drinking friend and girlfriend to quit their abusive behavior and get therapy. Support and encouragement are always good. At some point, however, if Ada’s approach is not resulting in positive responses, perhaps it is time to change the approach.

    For instance, some people are advocates of practicing “tough love.” Another approach might be the following: Perhaps Ada can get counseling so that the abusive behavior of his friends does not destroy him or her. Counseling might also provide Ada with a different way of looking at things and may even result in different approaches regarding the abusive behavior of his or her friends.

  8. Son of Alcohol Addict

    I find it interesting that people often attend treatment programs for drug or alcohol addiction and are allowed and even encouraged to continue their other addictions, including cigarettes and caffeine (coffee). Often these addicts also supplement these addictions with ice cream and other sugar-laden treats. All of these substances are addictive stumulants and should therefore be stopped as well.

  9. isabella mori

    (this is a “reprint” of a comment i made earlier – there was something technically wrong and i had to delete it)

    nice to have a discussion here!

    ada, you have linked to cliffside malibu before – do you have experience with that particular treatment place, or do you work for them?

    in my experience, when being involved with someone who misuses alcohol and drugs, it’s always helpful to come back to ourselves. how does it affect YOU? – and then set boundaries around it., e.g. “i love you and i really enjoy spending time with you. when you drink and are intoxicated, i am very uncomfortable around you, so please, let’s only get together when you’re sober.” that’s one version. it’s all about the old idea of separating the person from the behaviour.

    i also agree with “no abusive drinking” – counselling for the person who is affected by another’s drinking/using drugs can be very useful.

    by the way, it would be great if you could use names when commenting. please feel free to link to your sites but it makes for a better conversation if we say who we are rather than sounding like some sort of brand, no?

  10. isabella mori

    hi, son of alcohol addict

    this is a difficult topic. i personally think there is a big difference between “allowed” and “encouraged”. i find it very sad when people are encouraged to do anything that is unhealthy for them. for example, some alcohol treatment centres serve loads of unhealthy food and pour coffee down people’s throats like there’s no tomorrow.

    on the other hand, getting rid of more than one addiction can simply be too much. for most people, taking it one at a time seems to work best.

    what is your experience?

  11. No Abusive Drinking

    Wow, what a great conversation about a terribly difficult topic. While I am not an authority about addictions, it would appear to make some sense to make a priority list of one’s addictions and rid oneself of the “worst” addiction and then eliminate the next and then the next.

    Certainly drinking an excessive amount of coffee (containing caffeine) can be harmful, especially to people whose heart and circulation system get adversely affected by the caffeine. But in most instances, it would probably be more advantageous for an alcoholic to get professional treatment and counseling to get his or her alcoholism under control than it would be to quit drinking coffee.

    Who knows—maybe the act of successfully addressing one addiction might be a positive springboard for addressing one’s other addictions.

  12. Son of Alcohol Addict

    My experiences with alcohol rehab are with three addicts, one of whom was my father. I don’t have extensive knowledge of treatment centers – although my father went to several (which sort of supports my argument in itself) – so I don’t know if all of them are the same with regard to ignoring the other addictions I mentioned in my previous post (caffeine, nicotine, sugar), although I suspect they probably are.

    Allowing or encouraging (by supplying) these other stimulants keeps the addict on a drug-induced roller coaster, which, I believe, adds to the problem by keeping the addictive embers burning. Perhaps there would be fewer relapses if the embers were extinguished.

    It’s like encouraging a heroin addict continue to smoke pot based on the idea that the two drugs are different and the latter isn’t as bad.

    I don’t think that it would be “too much” for them to take to tackle all of the addictions at the same time. And if these other addictions contribute to the problem, then when should they be addressed? The answer is, they won’t be.

    Society looks upon these other addictions – particularly caffeine and sugar – as benign and even necessary. Caffeine is sacred.

  13. Rey

    According of many researchers Alcohol and Drug addiction is simply defined as a compulsive need for an intoxicating liquid that is obtained from fermented grain or fruit. These liquids include beer, wine, and other hard liquors. it says like every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism. and Alcohol addiction may also inflame the mouth, esophagus, and stomach, and could cause cancer in these areas, especially in drinkers who also smoke. Have a desire to stop the Alcohol and Drug addiction. You must have a serious desire to stop from being an alcoholic.


    This is a comprehensive addiction portal focusing on topics of alcohol and drug abuse.

  14. galois

    All the suggestions given by you great.. Thankx for giving some usefull information like this.. But did you think that a drug addicted person will come to a clinic and disguise himself.. I hope he will not.. Only family members can do it, and for that too the person would agree.. Otherwise the treatment is entirely waste.. Please give some ideas for convencing the drug addicts to take them to clinic.. Regards for your work..

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  15. isabella mori

    i’d like to emphasize once again: one size does not fit all. so – does a person need to give up al addictions together? it depends. questions that i would ask are: after some reflection, does the alcoholic think he/she should do it? (as rey put it, does he/she have the desire?)

    if there is no desire to give up other addictions, then we’re setting them up for failure.

    a question that follows is, what are the chances for short and long term success if the person gives it all up together? the answers to these questions will be different for each individual.

    how do you convince a person with an addiction problem to go for treatment? my experience with that is that trying to convince anyone to do anything is an uphill battle.

    it might be better to have an honest conversation, and think about how you want to interact with that person on a very practical level. e.g., i remember telling a friend once, “please don’t call or visit when you’re drunk. when you’re sober, i really enjoy spending time with you, though.”

    you might find some information at alanon, and also at intervention centre. two different approaches, but both worth looking into.

  16. Drug Rehab Program

    I think that the family support is a critical part of the alcohol rehab treatment… Anyways, the most important part is the social support and feelings that need to be changed inside an alcoholic… he needs to think positive again and have a clear mind.

  17. Ben

    I think its support what matters a most, We have to make a person’s willpower strong so that he/she can leave the alcohol on its own as by increasing his faith particularly concern towards his family.

    Alcohol Treatment

  18. jeremy

    The best treatment of alcohol is men itself. This is wonderful comments, which simply about treating alcohol addiction and it is generated by the person itself not by the circumstances. If you want to come out from the addiction of any kind, you have to try it from your end because you started it and you have to end it. Your will-power has to work strongly to stop it. The main treatment of alcohol addiction is man’s mentally thinking.

    Drug Intervention Connecticut

  19. Alcohol Abuse

    I agree with Isabella – motivation which comes from realization indeed plays the most important role in overcoming any addiction. That said- I think there are times when we do need external help, and for which there are of course many rehab centers available. Cheers!

  20. Chris

    Thank you for sharing this thought provoking post. I think that alcohol treatment success is a very big issue in the world today. Many people are addicted to drugs and need help. Drug rehabilitation centers are the places that they can go to get that help. I think that this is an issue that should be more known. This is why I bring it up. Anyway, thank you for your insight.

  21. drug abuse

    Its not easy to comment of alcohol when I my self have a drink every day. I have been drinking since I was in collage. I have been through months there I did not drink at all.
    Thats my story, what I feel is that we have to learn to deal with emotions if we are going to make any progress with addictions. If we dont do that we will only go from one addiction to the next.
    I would like to advice people to look deeper in to why we are addicted in the first place. One should also spend time in nature when one want to detox.

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