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Logo: Rethinking Drinking - Alcohol and your health

Professional help

Advances in alcoholism treatment in recent years have provided more choices for patients and health professionals.

  • Medications to treat alcoholism. Newer medications (naltrexone, topiramate, and acamprosate) can make it easier to quit drinking by offsetting changes in the brain caused by alcoholism. They don't make you sick if you do drink, unlike an older medication (disulfiram). None of these medications are addictive. They can also be combined with support groups or alcohol counseling.

    In addition to specialists, your regular doctor can now treat alcohol problems using the new medications and several brief office visits for support. See resources for more information.
  • Alcohol counseling. "Talk therapy" also works well. There are several counseling approaches that are about equally effective—12 step, cognitive-behavioral, motivational enhancement, or a combination. Getting help in itself appears to be more important than the particular approach used, as long as it offers empathy, avoids heavy confrontation, strengthens motivation, and provides concrete ways to change drinking behavior. See resources for organizations to help you find a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or other substance abuse professional.
  • Specialized, intensive treatment programs. Some people will need more intensive programs. See resources for a treatment locator. If you need a referral to a program, ask your doctor.
Feeling depressed or anxious?
It's common for people with alcohol problems to feel depressed or anxious. Mild symptoms may go away if you cut down or stop drinking. See a doctor or mental health professional if symptoms persist or get worse. If you're having suicidal thoughts, call your health care provider, or go to the nearest emergency room right away. Effective treatment is available to help you through this difficult time.

Information about depression, anxiety, and other mental health topics is available from the National Institute of Mental Health.