Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about treatment and support for people who are trying to control or stop their drinking.

What happens when you go into treatment?

Just recognising that your drinking is out of control and you need some help is a big step. The next challenge is taking action to start the road to recovery. Whatever recovery option someone chooses they will be invited for an initial assessment that will look at their concerns, their goals and their health. Once this is completed, the practitioner will talk through the different options.

For many people just a few appointments with the service will get them back on track. You don't need to be alcohol dependent to get help - just have a desire to make changes for the better. For others, recovery will be a long journey and there maybe pitfalls along the way but thousands of people recover each year and get their drinking and their lives back on track. 

Alcohol treatment is available free from the NHS throughout the UK. There are also other free options such as Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART recovery as well as private treatment centres. GPs can refer patients to their local agency.

Do you have to stop completely?

Abstinence is always an option but, no, treatment is about the client exploring their own goals, which might include a period of abstinence or might be about getting control over how much or how often you drink. The role of the treatment practitioner is to help the drinker to discover what they actually want to do about their drinking.  

It goes without saying that for treatment to be effective, it's important to be as honest as possible about the impact that alcohol is having. For example, if someone already have serious health issues, it would certainly be wise to consider giving up completely.

What is a detox?

Most people who are alcohol dependent are not physically dependent. They will have difficulty controlling their intake and difficulty in stopping but won't experience any physical symptoms when they stop. For a small minority, usually people who have been drinking very heavily for a number of years, physical dependence forms. This means that the absence of alcohol can cause physical symptoms known as withdrawal. These can range from mild to severe and peak a few days after the last drink. Withdrawal puts a lot of strain on the body and the brain so a detox is the alternative.  

An alcohol detoxification is a means of getting all the alcohol out of the body without having to go through withdrawal symptoms and it can be completed in about seven days. Usually, the patient receives a daily injection of benzodiazepines that stop the symptoms. this can be done in the person's own home - there's no need for inpatient treatment in most cases. It's not an alcohol substitute, it doesn't stop cravings and it's not a treatment as such, it just prepares the brain and body for a future without alcohol.

What is rehab?

Residential rehabilitation is a chance for the patient to work on staying free of alcohol in a residential environment, along with other clients who want to achieve abstinence. It's not a treatment style, all the same techniques are used as if a client is in recovery in the community, but for people who have tried everything else, this is a chance to leave their everyday lives and really focus on their recovery.

You may have read about celebrities going to rehab and being out again in a few days, this is not normally what rehab is about. It's often a 13-week stay, with little or no contact with the outside world and the patient or client does all the work - rehab is something you do for yourself, not something that is done to you!

Why do people relapse?

For people who are dependent on alcohol, the temptation to have a drink can be overwhelming. Many drinkers will try a variety of different treatment options before they finally quit or gain control for good. This is common. Research suggests that, when it comes to behaviour change, we're likely to relapse several times before we make a permanent change. The trick is to learn from each relapse so that you don't keep repeating the same mistakes.

Can you take medication to stop you drinking?

Unfortunately there's no magic pill that will take away the desire for a drink. Medication can be used for detox (see above) or to help prevent relapse or to help to curb cravings. Make no mistake, though, support from an alcohol professional via talking therapies, willpower and determination are the key ingredients to successfully stopping drinking.

Which type of treatment is the most effective?

There's no one type of treatments or support that stands out as being any better than any other. Lots of different things will help to determine the outcome of alcohol treatment and in particular, research tells us that the relationship between the practitioner and their client/patient is the most important thing. 

If you think your drinking is out of control, have a read of this blog post about the support that you can access.