Alcohol Treatment

What Is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence is a serious addiction disease that can lead to severe stress for those affected and those around them. If you experience symptoms of alcohol addiction, you should contact your general practitioner. Various therapy options are available.

What are the characteristics of alcohol addiction?

Alcoholism or alcohol dependence are medical terms for a clinical picture in which the regular consumption of alcoholic or alcoholic beverages is in the foreground. This is characterized by the fact that those affected are no longer able to deliberately control or dose their alcohol consumption. It is an addiction disease that occurs in different forms and is associated with various health consequences. Those affected often do not see their addictive behavior consciously , although the desire for alcohol largely determines their everyday life and is also noticeable to those around them.

What Is Alcohol Addiction?

Diagnostically relevant symptoms of alcohol addiction include:

  • Craving or addictive pressure (insurmountable desire for alcohol)
  • Tolerance development
  • Continued use despite negative physical, psychological or social consequences
  • Loss of control
  • Physical withdrawal syndrome after prolonged interruption of consumption
  • Neglect of personal and professional interests
  • Structuring everyday life around addiction
  • Neglect of personal hygiene to the point of neglect

Diagnosis of alcohol addiction

The treatment of alcohol addiction depends on the degree and duration of the dependence , on any existing comorbidities and, finally, on personal criteria such as age, gender and psychological and social factors. When making the diagnosis, the doctor  should therefore ask whether there have been attempts in the past to give up drinking and how these went. In this way, valuable knowledge can be gained for planning an effective withdrawal treatment.

Important diagnostic questions for the patient are, for example:

  • Have you ever tried to get rid of alcohol yourself?
  • How long have you been able to go without drinking alcohol?
  • Have you ever attracted attention because of your drinking, professionally or privately?
  • Do you feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking?
  • Have you ever had alcohol withdrawal in an addiction clinic?
  • During your withdrawal from alcohol, did you suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, tremors, racing heart, diarrhea, nausea, nervousness and / or decreased ability to concentrate and therefore stopped the withdrawal?
  • In your opinion, what caused the withdrawal attempt to fail? Are there any factors that prevented you from implementing withdrawal measures or made withdrawal more difficult?
What Is Alcohol Addiction
What Is Alcohol Addiction
© Pexels / Photo

Therapy of alcohol addiction

Once the individual criteria for alcohol withdrawal have been clarified, the doctors work with those affected to determine a therapeutic approach that is intended to offer the patient the greatest possible support and is realistic for them. In many cases, inpatient withdrawal treatment (“detoxification”) in a specialist clinic is advisable, and more rarely, outpatient withdrawal treatment supported by a doctor as an alternative .

In both cases, the therapeutic intervention is divided into four phases :

  • At the beginning there is the contact and motivation phase, in which those wishing to withdraw are medically supported in their decision.
  • This is followed by a detox phase , in which the actual withdrawal takes place – partly supported by medication and under medical supervision.
  • This is followed by an initial psychotherapeutic phase in which those affected gradually get used to a life without alcohol. Various psychotherapeutic methods are used to facilitate and support a sustained change in behavior and experience.
  • The last step should be a follow-up phase, which is intended to provide physical and, above all, psychological stabilization after withdrawal and to reduce the likelihood of relapse.

The duration of an alcohol detox depends on individual factors. Physical withdrawal is usually complete in a few days. In most cases, this does not end the treatment of an addiction disorder.

Forms of alcohol withdrawal / detoxification

A distinction can be made between so-called “cold withdrawal” , in which no drug support is used, and medically assisted withdrawal , in which the doctor cushions the withdrawal symptoms with medication. In both forms there is a complete renunciation of alcohol , which is a certain burden on the body. Withdrawal assisted with drugs, which themselves often involve a risk of addiction, should always be supported by a doctor. These drugs may only be used for a very limited period of time and not on their own by the patient. They have an antispasmodic, calming and anxiety-relieving effect and are therefore suitable for reducing withdrawal symptoms .

step-by-step “creeping” outpatient withdrawal is another way of combating alcohol addiction. Patients gradually reduce the amount they drink and keep a diary about it. Doctors and addiction therapists provide support and control.

The first sensible contact points for addiction problems are often addiction counseling or addiction treatment centers , which can be found in every major city. You can provide help with questions about a necessary withdrawal and also with the application for withdrawal treatment.

Alcohol Rehabilitation: How Weaning Treatment Works

After detoxification , a weaning treatment (“long-term treatment”) is often useful. First of all, the doctor decides together with the person concerned which form is more favorable in the individual case. The advantage of inpatient weaning is:

  • the availability of medical and psychotherapeutic help at all times and
  • the protected setting.

In particular, the protected environment should make it easier for patients to forego alcohol and to gain inner distance. So it is possible to be taken out of the stressful everyday life for a while and to devote yourself entirely to your own health. Inpatient withdrawal treatment for alcohol addiction takes between 8 and 16 weeks. Different therapy fields can be combined and used in a targeted manner:

  • Group and individual psychotherapy
  • Sports and exercise therapy
  • Art and creative therapy
  • Relaxation procedure
  • social work and medical support

An  outpatient rehabilitation treatment in a treatment facility can be used for many alcoholics are the more practical option for. B. when the job cannot be given up during therapy or children need to be looked after. Outpatient weaning treatment can last a much longer period of 1 to 2 years.

Last but not least, self-help groups also provide valuable support in combating addiction. Here, those affected exchange ideas and give each other support.

After successful alcohol rehabilitation, follow-up care by doctors and / or psychotherapists makes sense. Above all, however, further treatment or aftercare at an addiction counseling center and regular visits to a self-help group are recommended in order to ensure that abstinence has been achieved over the long term.

Does the health insurance pay for alcohol addiction?

For those with statutory health insurance, there are no costs for inpatient withdrawal treatment if the relevant indication is present . Any resident doctor can admit you to a hospital here. Inpatient withdrawal treatment is carried out either by the relevant pension insurance provider, if the prerequisites for this are met, or by the respective health insurance company. However, you must apply for weaning and thus have the insurance provider approve it in advance. This works best through an addiction counseling center. Your family doctor can also establish the first contact for you.

How often can treatments be done?

In principle, there are no restrictions on the frequency of inpatient alcohol detoxification treatment. After a renewed application , the responsible insurance provider will check whether further withdrawal treatment makes sense . If you need repeated treatment here, the search advice center is a competent contact for the application.


In summary, it can be said that there are very good therapeutic options available to alcohol-dependent patients in Germany as soon as the person concerned has made the decision to abstain. Alcohol detoxification or alcohol cessation can be carried out on an inpatient or outpatient basis. In addition to medication support, various psychotherapeutic therapy fields are available that support the therapeutic success in the long term and secure the newly gained quality of life against possible relapses.

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