Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment
If you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol, you may begin alcohol use disorder (AUD) treatment by visiting your doctor. If they believe you have a drinking problem, they may recommend professional medical and mental health treatments.
To assess a problem with alcohol, your physician may:
- Ask questions about your drinking habits. Your physician may request permission to talk to friends and family. Laws prevent them from sharing any information unless you consent.
- Perform imaging and laboratory tests. Your doctor can’t order specialized lab or imaging studies to diagnose an alcohol use disorder. However, certain results on lab tests might suggest it. You may also require testing to diagnose other health issues related to alcohol use. Organ damage may be identified on imaging tests.
- Do a physical exam. Your doctor will ask questions about how your body functions. They may note a range of physical signs and symptoms that suggest alcohol use complications.
- Initiate a psychological evaluation. An evaluation may include questions about your behavior, symptoms, thoughts, and feelings. Your evaluation may include completion an intake questionnaire about these areas.
- Use DSM5 criteria. You may receive a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder according to The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, used by mental health practitioners in the diagnosis of mental health conditions.
Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment
Treatments for alcohol use disorder vary and depend on your situation and needs. Your treatment may involve a short intervention, an outpatient program, personal or group counseling sessions, or residential treatment. Stopping the use of alcohol to improve your health and quality of life is the goal of professional medical treatment.
Treatment may include:
- Medical detox. Your treatment may start with detox or detoxification that is managed by medical professionals. The process usually occurs over a two to seven-day period. You may be prescribed sedative medicines to manage the symptoms of withdrawal. Detox usually occurs in a residential inpatient center or at a hospital.
- Skills development and creating a treatment plan. Alcohol treatment specialists work with you to set goals, instill behavioral changes, provide education, counseling, and follow-up treatments.
- Professional psychological and psychosocial counseling. You receive personal and group counseling to best understand your condition and to receive support from the professional treatment team. You may receive family or couples therapy because support for the entire family is often an important key to the recovery process.
- MAT (oral medicines). Medically-assisted treatment is an essential part of recovering from alcohol use disorders. An oral medicine, disulfiram (Antabuse) may support your desire to stop drinking. It won’t cure the disorder or resolve a compulsion to consume alcohol. If you take Antabuse and consume alcoholic beverages, the drug causes unpleasant physical reactions, e.g. vomiting, headache, flushing, and nausea. Naltrexone is used because the drug blocks the good “high” feel of drinking alcohol. Antabuse may reduce the urge to drink. Acamprosate is also prescribed to diminish the urge to drink alcohol after your detox. Unlike naltrexone or disulfiram, acamprosate won’t make you sick if you drink.
- MAT (injected medicines). A form of naltrexone called Vivitrol is delivered by injection once a month by your health provider. It’s similar to the medicine in pill form but the injection may be easier on the body.
- Psychological and health support. Support groups and after-care programs help patients recovering from alcohol use disorder to manage relapse, cope with sobriety, and stop drinking. If you’re depressed, anxious, or suffer from another mental health issue, talk therapy, prescription medicines, or other treatments may be necessary.
- Health conditions. Many health problems improve or resolve when you stop drinking alcohol. You may need continued medical treatment and follow-ups for certain health conditions.
If you or a loved one is dealing with a serious alcohol use disorder, a residential treatment facility can help. A quality inpatient residential treatment programs offers personal and group therapy, education, family engagement, activity, and support. Your care team includes licensed drug and alcohol counselors, doctors, nurses, social workers, and others who have deep experience in treating and supporting people with alcohol use disorder.