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Treatment of Alcoholism

Active Treatment

Relapse to alcohol addiction is most likely to occur in the first three to six months after a person stops drinking, a period characterized by physiological abnormalities, mood changes and complaints of anxiety, depression, insomnia and hormone and sleep problems. Getting active help and support during the early months of sobriety is critical for treatment to succeed.

In the third phase of treatment, a person typically gains the motivation necessary to maintain a commitment to sobriety, the knowledge and skills necessary to stay sober, and the support systems necessary to cope with the problems of daily life—the problems that everyone has to face—without resorting to the old “solution” of drinking. This is where the help of a treatment professional is important. A professional will help you better understand how alcohol has affected your health and your life, so that you can set goals and develop a plan to stay sober and choose the treatments that are right for you.

Some proven medications are available to help with alcohol craving and discourage alcohol use. A treatment professional will also help you choose medications and treatments for concurrent psychiatric illnesses, like depression or anxiety, if that is appropriate, or for a variety of health problems that often accompany alcoholism.

Research has shown that the longer people stay in treatment—that is, the longer they remain sober and actively committed to sobriety—the more likely it is that they will maintain sobriety. Some treatment professionals think of the phase of active treatment as lasting from six months to a year. During the first critical months of treatment, people often need a variety of supports, especially AA or other self-help groups, to achieve and maintain lasting sobriety.

Maintaining Sobriety and Relapse Prevention

It is often difficult to pinpoint when the active treatment phase ends and a person enters the maintenance phase of recovery. In the active stage of treatment, people learn what they need to do to stay sober and develop the many skills they will use to avoid relapse. A person could be said to enter the maintenance stage when he or she is comfortable with these skills and has had a chance to rely on them to stay sober when life throws them the inevitable curveballs, both in crisis situations and in everyday problem situations.

Many people in recovery attribute their ongoing sobriety to participation in a support group such as AA or Women for Sobriety.

Treatment of Alcoholism

Mark S. Gold, MD

APA Reference
Gold, M. (2018). Treatment of Alcoholism. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 11, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.