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)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *