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Steps to Take to Stop Drinking: Finding the Right Treatment for You

Ian Landau

A white woman with long brown hair is visible from the shoulders down. She is sitting with her hands folded, wearing a denim jean jacket and dark pants. In the foreground is a slightly blurred pair of interlocking white hands, folded over a person's leg in dark pants.

Aug 16, 2022

In This Article

Today, there are several treatment options to help you curb your alcohol intake or quit drinking alcohol entirely. 

A qualified medical professional can determine whether you have alcohol use disorder (AUD), and if you do, which of the various treatment methods are best for you.

Signs You Have a Drinking Problem

There is no precise formula that says you have a drinking problem that needs treatment. Every person is different.

But common signs that drinking has likely become a problem are when it negatively affects your physical and mental health and your relationships, and when you’re unable to control your drinking or cope with general life situations without having a drink.

How much alcohol you drink and how often are certainly significant factors, but the definition of AUD does not include specific quantities of alcohol consumed or guidelines regarding the frequency of drinking. 

In fact, AUD is diagnosed on a spectrum—from mild to severe—depending on how much of a negative impact drinking has on your life.

Remember, if you do have a problem with alcohol, you are not alone: More than 14 million adults in the United States have AUD (1).

How Treatment Works

There isn't one best way to stop drinking alcohol. Some people are able to cut down and quit on their own. 

But most people benefit from the assistance of doctors, counselors, and other healthcare professionals with expertise in treating substance use issues. Your primary care doctor is a good first person to ask for help. They can treat you or recommend a specialist or treatment program.

Professional help to treat AUD comes in two forms: counseling or talk therapy and medication. For the best results, these two treatments are often combined (2).

Counseling or Talk Therapy

A qualified therapist will help you build positive coping strategies to handle urges to drink. Counseling may be in a group, one-on-one sessions, or both.

Medication

A doctor may prescribe medication to treat AUD. Naltrexone is one medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help curb the urge to drink and help you quit alcohol. Other medications are available as well.

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The 4 Levels of Professional Treatment for AUD

Just as AUD is diagnosed on a spectrum from mild to severe, there are different intensities of professional treatment. The American Society of Addiction Medicine outlines the following four levels of care (3).

Outpatient

In outpatient care, you see a healthcare provider at their office or via telehealth for counseling and medication support. At this level, people may largely continue their usual routines, such as living at home and going to work.

Intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization

At this level, you typically receive treatment for at least 9 hours a week in an office or hospital setting, but you still live at home. This level of care may require daily counseling, which may impact your day-to-day routine.

Residential

This is what most people mean when they refer to “rehab.” At this level, you’ll live at a facility for a period of time and receive 24-hour care that includes intensive counseling and medication support.

Intensive inpatient

Intensive inpatient treatment provides medical support for people with a severe physical addiction to alcohol who may experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

A healthcare professional specializing in addiction treatment can help you decide which level of care is best for you. This professional can assess your individual problem with alcohol and its impacts on your health and life in general.

Factors That May Affect Which Treatment for AUD Is Right for You

Severity of AUD

More severe AUD typically requires more intensive treatment.

Your Overall Health

Outpatient care is likely a better option if your general health is relatively good. If you’re in poor health, it’s more likely you’ll benefit from inpatient care to treat and monitor your AUD and other conditions you may have.

Social Support

Positive support from family and friends can be very helpful in quitting drinking. You can also get this support from a treatment program that includes more frequent counseling and a more formal schedule.

Insurance Coverage

Be sure to check how much of your treatment your insurance will cover. Inpatient treatment tends to be more costly than outpatient treatment. 

If you don’t have health insurance, many programs offer sliding scale fees. (2)

Where to Get Help

A primary care doctor or mental health professional can evaluate and treat your AUD or make recommendations to other healthcare providers or programs that can treat you (2).

Another convenient way to seek treatment for alcohol is through Oar.

What Is Oar?

Oar is a service that provides people who are ready to change their relationship with alcohol access to medical support and science-based solutions so they can cut down on drinking or quit entirely. 

You complete an online alcohol use assessment and a qualified medical provider determines whether medication to treat AUD is right for you.

About The Author

Ian Landau is a journalist who's written extensively about health and wellness since 2010. He is also the author of The Hypochondriac's Handbook (Skyhorse, 2010).

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