Ways to Treat Alcohol Addiction

The bad news is alcohol addiction is a serious and sometimes life-threatening disease. The good news is that there are a number of effective treatments for alcoholism.

According to research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the medication naltrexone and up to 20 sessions of alcohol counseling by a behavioral specialist are equally effective treatments for alcohol addiction when combined with medical management. Individuals who received naltrexone, specialized alcohol counseling or both showed the most progress after 16 weeks of outpatient alcohol rehab. The patients also received medical management, an intervention consisting of nine brief, structured outpatient sessions provided by a health care professional.

One treatment that proved less effective was the medication acamprosate. The NIH launched the study (referred to in short as the COMBINE study) in 2001 to identify the most effective treatments for alcohol addiction. It was the largest clinical trial ever conducted of pharmacologic and behavioral treatments for alcohol addiction.

The alcohol counseling patients received included a variety of therapeutic approaches, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement and support group  participation.

The researchers monitored the numbers of days alcohol-free both during the 16 weeks of treatment and one year post-treatment. . Most patients showed substantial improvement during outpatient alcohol rehab. Naltrexone showed a slight advantage for preventing relapse one year after the end of active alcohol treatment.

The bottom line: Whether you're considered medications like naltrexone combined with medical management, or specialized alcohol counseling combined with medical management, you're taking important steps toward recovering from alcohol addiction when you reach out for help.


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