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Alcoholism Treatment

When researching all the listings for alcoholism treatment, alcohol rehab, or alcohol treatment programs on the internet some people may feel like they need a degree to sort through all the terminology. The bottom-line of what individuals are often looking for is the answer to two questions: how can I best help myself or loved one with alcoholism and what works in alcoholism treatment programs?

Alcoholism Treatment is not Alcohol Detox

In order to answer these two questions, we first must examine what is meant by alcoholism treatment. In society, detox and alcoholism treatment are two terms that are often confused. Frequently, people believe that they just need detox or to detoxify off of alcohol. The belief is that if they get all the alcohol out of their system (detox), then they have successfully completed alcoholism treatment. Unfortunately, detox is only the first step of alcoholism treatment. Some detoxes are more complicated and take longer than others especially if a person’s drug of choice during their active stage has been alcohol, opiates (heroin, morphine, oxycontin), benzodiazapeines, or a combination of these drugs. Often the detox process is no longer than a week unless there are is a pre-existing mental illness or other medical condition that can complicate withdrawal. Alcohol is the riskiest detox and people should not try to quit on their own without medical support, especially if their alcoholism has resulted in a physical dependency on alcohol (i.e. have the shakes or seizures as a result of sudden withdrawal).

For general information on detox see the Detox Facts section.

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Beginning Alcoholism Treatment after Detox

Now that the alcohol and other mood-altering substances are cleared out of a person’s system, then the real work of alcoholism treatment begins. Individuals develop addictions because of a combination of biology (genetic predisposition), psychology (an emotional need, sense of purpose), and sociology (social culture, accessibility of drugs, peers etc). Just because people stop drinking alcohol or using drugs does not mean that they are cured. Individuals can easily “white-knuckle” through cravings and be just as miserable as they were during the active stage of their alcohol or drug abuse.  So, regardless of whether an individual with alcoholism is still drinking or is abstinent, the need to address the underlying causes of the addiction remains.

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What Happens in Alcoholism Treatment?

In alcoholism treatment, people need to examine how to lead a life of recovery. How are they going to fill the void now that all the alcohol or drug abuse is gone? An important part of alcohol rehab or a drug treatment program is for individuals to look at changing former patterns related to their addiction. Such changes include former people, places, and things associated with the alcohol or drug abuse. People in alcoholism treatment will examine new healthy habits to maintain as part of an ongoing recovery lifestyle. Likely, these new habits will include a Twelve-Step Program of support. Also such individuals will need to explore various relapse prevention strategies or skills that they will use in order to manage cravings so that they do not return back to drinking or drug use. Furthermore, clients may examine fundamental questions such as their purpose in life and their relationship with family, friends, and significant others.

What actually happens in treatment depends on the treatment center and their theory on what causes alcoholism and how best to treat the condition.

For more information on the various theories of alcoholism see the Biopsychosocial section. Additional information is also available in the biological, psychological, and social modalities sections..

For more information on alcoholism treatment programs & services at Sunshine Coast see the Drug Rehab Programs & Services section.

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Examining Emotional Triggers in Alcoholism Treatment

An important aspect of alcoholism treatment is for individuals to examine their own personal emotional triggers related to their desire to use alcohol. In alcoholism treatment, people will commonly explore what types of thoughts (triggers) and situational variables (people, places, and things) relate to their desires to return to alcohol. During their stay, individuals will explore whether they are self-medicating unresolved grief/loss issues or trauma with alcohol or drugs. Others may examine depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, etc. as issues that may be psychologically intertwined with their addiction. There is an important psychological component that people will need to explore as part of their own therapeutic journey in any alcoholism treatment program.

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Does Alcoholism Treatment Even Work?

The second common question in alcoholism treatment as listed above is whether alcoholism treatment works. In answering this question, one should consider that addiction is a disease in which people may go in and out of remission from alcoholism in a lifetime. As long as people follow their recovery programs, then they will keep this disease in remission. Not all people will stop their alcohol or drug abuse after their first try attempt at alcoholism treatment. Evidence-based practices in alcoholism treatment are now being used in the field and more studies will become available. Millions of people have already found and maintained sobriety through cognitive behavioural or Twelve-Step based treatment programs.



General Information on Alcoholism Treatment

Alcoholism Myths and Realities: Removing the Stigma of Society’s (2005) dispels 100 widespread myths about drug and alcohol abuse.  Douglas Thorburn.

Alcoholism and Other Drug Problems (1996) offers a balanced and comprehensive account of the nature, causes, prevention, and treatment of the nation’s number one public health problem. James E. Royce, David Scratchley.

Alcoholism: Paperback Edition(1994) covers the question of whether alcoholism is a disease, the most effective treatments, the effect of alcohol advertisements, and help for children of alcoholics. Carol Wekesser.

Beyond the Influence: Understanding and Defeating Alcoholism (2000) is the follow-up to the best seller, Under the Influence. Katherine Ketcham, William F. Asbury.

Under the Influence (1984) James Robert Milam, Katherine Ketcham.

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Printed Resources – Research and Alcoholism Treatment

Innovations in Alcoholism Treatment: State of the Art Reviews and Their Implications for Clinical Practice(1993) was developed to provide state-of-the-art reviews and perspectives on several important current areas of research in the field of alcoholism. Gerard Joseph Conners.

For information on alcoholism treatment research see Research in the Alcohol section.

Printed Resources – Self-help and Alcoholism

Alcoholism (2000) is aimed at those who have alcohol problems and their families. Donald W. Goodwin.

For more self-help information on alcoholism treatment see the Self-Help section.

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Printed Resources – Theories of Addiction and Alcoholism Treatment

Alcoholism: A Bio-Psycho-Social Approach (1990) presents a clear factual basis for alcoholism counselling and offers a foundation for understanding each aspect of the disease, whether biological or sociological. Jerome David Levin.

Alcoholism: A Matter of Choice: A Twenty-First Century View of Addiction (1999) applying modern psychological and scientific theory emerging from quantum mechanics, the author tackles concepts such as individuality, Enlightenment, and alcoholism. Jim Hewit.

Practical Approaches to Alcoholism Psychotherapy (1985) Sheldon Zimberg, John Wallace. ISBN 0-306-41762-6.

For more theories on the causes and treatment of alcoholism see the Biopsychosocial section.

Printed Resources – Treatment of Alcoholism

Handbook of Alcoholism (2000) presents the necessary skills to treat problem drinkers and alcohol dependent patients. Gerald Zernig, Alois Saria, Martin Kurz, Stephanie S. O’Malley.

Improving Compliance with Alcoholism Treatment (2000) is a manual that provides strategies for enhancing client compliance to psychosocial treatments, as well as therapist compliance with treatment protocols. Kathleen Carroll. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Treating Alcoholism: Helping Your Clients Find the Road to Recovery (2004) is a therapist manual that will help counsellors assess, diagnose, and treat addiction as a disease. Robert R. Perkinson.

For more information on treatment see the Addiction Treatment section.

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Online Resources – Research on Alcoholism

For information on alcoholism treatment research see Research in the Alcohol section.

Online Resources – Stages of Alcoholism

Jellinek Phases: The Progressive Symptoms of Alcoholism

Online Resources – The Twelve Steps and Alcoholism

More About Alcoholism discusses AA’s experience with individuals who try to control their drinking rather than abstaining completely from alcohol. Alcoholics Anonymous, Chapter 3.

For more resources on the 12 Steps see the 12-Step Support Groups section


Drink, Drank, Drunk is a 1975 PBS Special hosted by Carol Burnett. Other actors that participated in this special include Morgan Freeman and Joseph Bologna:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Alcoholic Liver Disease explains photos of diseased liver due to alcohol damage such as cirrhosis.

Disclaimer: the materials and information offered on this site are intended for educational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for needed medical, psychological or psychiatric treatment or counseling. If you have any questions, consult with your health professional before using these materials.

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I wanted to thank you for the hospitality afforded me during my stay on campus. It was a treat to get to see and hang out with everyone. You folks are doing good and powerful work there. You’re changing people’s lives and creating hope where despair and desperation had ruled. I will never forget you for giving me my life back and facilitating the relationship with my God that saved my life. I love you all– each and every one of you for giving so much of yourselves to save me and the many other fortunate clients who have been blessed by spending time with you all.

- Terrace, BC

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