Alcohol Addiction: Therapy

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Alcohol Addiction: Therapy
Alcohol Addiction: Therapy

Video: Alcohol Addiction: Therapy

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Video: Alcohol/Drug Addiction, Treatment & Recovery | David Streem, MD 2023, January

Alcohol addiction: therapy

The treatment of alcohol dependency varies from person to person - the path to abstinence, however, usually takes a long time. Depending on the situation of those affected, measures are initiated to ensure survival in an emergency or ensure long-term survival as healthy as possible. The aim is to reduce alcohol consumption or ideally complete abstinence. The therapy goals can range up to a life of self-realization and autonomy. Alcohol addiction is still a taboo subject that is kept secret by many.

However, the earlier the problem is identified and treated, the better the chances are. However, it often takes time for those affected to recognize their problems and to be ready to face therapy. Alcohol dependence is multifactorial and usually requires external professional help. Often a therapy is necessary that starts at several corner points - medicinal, psychotherapeutic and socio-therapeutic.


  • Continue reading
  • more on the subject
  • Advice, downloads & tools
  • Therapy takes place in phases
  • The alcohol withdrawal syndrome
  • Whom can I ask?
  • How are the costs going to be covered?

Special institutions, facilities and therapists are geared towards the treatment of alcohol addiction and support you to lead a life without alcohol. An inpatient stay may be necessary for this, but the use of outpatient services is also possible.

The doctor recommends which forms of therapy or methods are required and which additional measures are taken, depending on the patient's needs.

Therapy takes place in phases

The treatment takes place in several phases:

  • Contact and motivation phase: Through discussions, education and advice, information is provided on the subject of alcohol consumption and its risks. The aim is, among other things, to reduce alcohol consumption and to strengthen personal responsibility as well as to determine further therapeutic steps. In the case of very high alcohol consumption, admission to an emergency room or hospital may be necessary (e.g. in the event of alcohol poisoning). The willingness of the patient to undertake the therapy is particularly important for the success of the therapy - ie those affected not only recognize their alcohol problem, but also accept help. Sometimes the secondary illnesses are decisive for a visit to the doctor and the start of therapy.
  • Detoxification phase: In this phase, the organism should be "weaned" from alcohol to the extent that no more alcohol is needed after the detoxification phase. In addition to adapting the body to an alcohol-free life, the focus is on preventing withdrawal symptoms. If withdrawal symptoms occur with complications (such as seizures, delirium tremens), medical treatment may be required. This is often done in inpatient facilities. The "cold withdrawal" takes place without medication. As a rule, a "warm withdrawal" is carried out in which the withdrawal symptoms are treated with medication (usually by giving benzodiazepines in tapering doses and possibly also with vitamin B1 preparations and / or anti-epileptic drugs).
  • Weaning phase : The detox phase is followed by the weaning phase - in a specialist clinic or on an outpatient basis. It teaches you to lead a life without alcohol. Often behavior patterns have to be recognized and solutions developed - e.g. problem-solving strategies. During this time, it is essential to find or rediscover resources, to strengthen one's own vital forces and to find alternatives to addictive substances in order to be able to lead a fulfilling life without alcohol in the long term. It is also important to identify personal triggers for alcohol consumption. Various therapeutic offers (such as psycho- and social-therapeutic), training and education measures, relaxation methods, etc. can help. For more information, see Psyche: Help & Support.
  • Follow- up care phase : In order to be able to maintain abstinence over the long term, to reduce the risk of relapse and to facilitate social reintegration, outpatient follow-up care in special facilities or in cooperation with the family doctor is necessary in the event of alcohol dependence. Extensive support is particularly important during this time. Further therapeutic measures, for example in the case of mental disorders, are also part of the aftercare phase.

Medicinal support can sometimes be necessary during the entire therapy period or after withdrawal - the doctor decides on the therapeutic measures in each individual case. In addition, any existing organic problems (e.g. damage to the liver) are taken into account. When treating addiction, one also speaks of withdrawal treatment. Acute treatment using addiction psychiatric / medical measures is referred to as “qualified withdrawal treatment”.

The alcohol withdrawal syndrome

Over time, the brain gets used to the regular high dose of alcohol. If the continual consumption of alcohol is suddenly interrupted in an alcohol dependency, this can lead to withdrawal symptoms. There are malregulations with sometimes serious consequences.

Withdrawal syndrome begins about five to ten hours after the blood alcohol level drops and goes back around the fourth or fifth day. The syndrome reaches its “peak” after about 48 to 72 hours. Medical treatment for alcohol withdrawal syndrome is possible.

Common symptoms:

  • Tremor (shaking hands)
  • Restlessness
  • fear
  • Nausea, diarrhea
  • sleep disorders
  • Increase in pulse and respiratory rate
  • sweat
  • fever

The syndrome can progress with or without delirium. A withdrawal syndrome with delirium is also known as delirium tremens (alcohol delirium). Typical signs before this occurs are difficulty sleeping, tremors and anxiety. There is clouding of consciousness and confusion, perception disorders (hallucinations, "white mouse vision"), strong tremors, delusions, restlessness and over-excitability (eg heartbeat).

Note Delirium tremens can be life-threatening and lead to a coma or even death. It is a medical emergency that needs treatment.

Whom can I ask?

Treatment usually takes place in specialized inpatient facilities. Outpatient facilities can also be the point of contact (e.g. for aftercare). In addition, the family doctor as well as doctors from various disciplines (e.g. for child and adolescent psychiatry, psychiatry and neurology) and psychotherapists can be involved in the therapy process.

Doctors, psychotherapists, outpatient and inpatient treatment and counseling options, etc. can be found using the various searches. You can also find treatment and advice options via the addiction help compass.

Here you can find information on the addiction aid compass in sign language.

How are the costs going to be covered?

The costs for the therapy of alcohol addiction are normally covered by the social security agencies.

The treatment of addiction disorders (including psychotherapy) also takes place in specialized inpatient facilities (e.g. corresponding clinics, departments in hospitals) that have contracts with the health insurance providers. Follow-up care can be provided in specialized outpatient facilities or by the family doctor. For these treatment cases, the costs are generally covered in full.

For certain services (e.g. psychotherapy with resident psychotherapists), an application for a cost subsidy can be submitted by the health insurance provider. You can find more information on this and on the assumption of costs under Services & Costs.

For information on the respective provisions, please contact your health insurance provider, which you can find on the social security website.

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