Is There A Cure For Alcoholism?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD), commonly referred to as alcoholism or alcohol addiction, does not follow the same course for everyone. Although it can be a life-long recovery journey for some, we now know people can successfully recover with varying levels of support and treatment.

The diagnosis for an AUD is based on behavioral, emotional, and psychological symptoms associated with addiction. Addiction is a chronic condition, and episodes of relapse are common. Even people who recover and no longer show any symptoms are at increased risk for recurrence.

Within the current framework of addiction as a chronic condition, there is no cure for addiction that eliminates the chance for relapse. Instead, alcohol addiction can cycle between periods of remission and recurrence similar to other chronic health conditions.

What Does It Mean To Recover From An Alcohol Addiction?

Instead of using the term “cured”, people with alcohol addiction are considered “in recovery” or “recovered.” However, these terms are related to more than alcohol use, and different people define recovery in different ways.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines recovery as: “A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

That definition does not require full abstinence from alcohol and also does not view abstinence itself as full recovery.

Some people may choose to moderate their alcohol use or moderate their use of other drugs while abstaining from alcohol use. It is important to note that abstinence is not the only legitimate path to alcohol addiction recovery. For some people, moderated and controlled drinking is possible depending on their individual values and circumstances.

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Can Medications Cure Alcohol Addiction?

There are medications that can be very helpful in treating alcohol addiction, but none of them can fully cure the addiction altogether. Some medications help reduce and prevent withdrawal symptoms as someone cuts back or quits using alcohol. Other medications can reduce cravings for alcohol or interfere with the way alcohol affects the brain so that people do not experience the same pleasure or buzz when they consume it. There is even a medication (disulfiram) that helps people abstain from alcohol because it makes them physically ill when they drink.

It’s important to remember that these medications are prescribed on a case-by-case basis based on an individual’s specific needs and preferences and are not guaranteed to help everyone struggling with alcohol addiction.

Methods For Recovery

Although there isn’t a cure for alcohol addiction, there are many non-pharmacological and psychosocial resources to help people reduce the severity of their addiction, recover, and sustain remission of symptoms.

Self-Help Resources

When someone starts to consider whether they have an alcohol problem, they often start looking at self-help resources like books, podcasts, mobile apps, and websites for information about alcohol and recovery. It’s important to note that some self-help resources are more evidence-based and effective than others, so be mindful of source credibility.

Mutual Support Groups

Once someone has decided they want to change the way they drink, they might attend mutual support groups. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the most widely available and well-known option for people with alcohol addiction, but there are other options for people who do not like the 12-step model of addiction and recovery.

Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART™ Recovery) are support groups based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and these are good options for people who prefer a pragmatic approach that examines thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to alcohol addiction and recovery.

Other mutual support groups include Refuge Recovery, Women for Sobriety, and All Recovery. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many mutual support groups are now available online, which makes them more accessible to people regardless of their location.

Peer Recovery Coaches

Another option for people looking for support for their alcohol addiction is to find a peer recovery coach. These are similar to sponsors in the 12-step programs like AA, but they are not linked to a specific recovery path. Instead, peer recovery coaches have lived experience with addiction and have completed standardized training to receive the peer recovery coach credential in their state.

Find Treatment For An Alcohol Use Disorder

If someone struggling with alcohol addiction is not able to recover or finds themselves relapsing after utilizing these resources, then they likely need professional treatment. Thankfully, many health insurance providers have plans that help cover the expenses of addiction treatment. Explore our insurance directory to see which rehabs accept your insurance.

You are not alone in your search for treatment. If you or a loved one is seeking help for an addiction to alcohol, help is available. Reach out to a treatment provider for free today, to learn about detox facilities, and inpatient or outpatient rehabs that are available to you.