Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder
Several evidence-based treatment approaches are available for alcohol use disorder. One size does not fit all and a treatment approach that may work for one person may not work for another. Treatment can be outpatient and/or inpatient and be provided by specialty programs, therapists, and doctors.
Can People with Alcohol Use Disorder Recover?
Many people with AUD do recover, but setbacks are common among people in treatment. Seeking professional help early can prevent relapse. Behavioral therapies can help people develop skills to avoid and overcome triggers, such as stress, that might lead to drinking. Medications also can help deter drinking during times when individuals may be at greater risk of relapse (e.g., divorce, death of a family member).
Three medications are currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help people stop or reduce their drinking and prevent relapse: naltrexone (oral and long-acting injectable), acamprosate, and disulfiram. All these medications are non-addictive, and they may be used alone or combined with behavioral treatments or mutual-support groups.
Behavioral treatments, also known as alcohol counseling or “talk therapy,” provided by licensed therapists are aimed at changing drinking behavior. Examples of behavioral treatments are brief interventions and reinforcement approaches, treatments that build motivation and teach skills for coping and preventing relapse, and mindfulness-based therapies.
Mutual-support groups provide peer support for stopping or reducing drinking. Group meetings are available in most communities, at low or no cost, at convenient times and locations—including an increasing presence online. This means they can be especially helpful to individuals at risk for relapse to drinking. Combined with medications and behavioral treatment provided by health professionals, mutual-support groups can offer a valuable added layer of support.
Note: People with severe AUD may need medical help to avoid alcohol withdrawal if they decide to stop drinking. Alcohol withdrawal is a potentially life-threatening process that can occur when someone who has been drinking heavily for a prolonged period of time suddenly stops drinking. Doctors can prescribe medications to address these symptoms and make the process safer and less distressing.
- If you are concerned about your alcohol use and would like to explore whether you might have AUD, visit the Rethinking Drinking website.
- To learn more about alcohol treatment options and search for quality care near you, visit the NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator.
- For more information about alcohol and your health, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website.