Alcohol addiction can result in many medical complications and can also occur with other mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders creating an increased risk for suicide. Seeking professional treatment for your alcohol abuse disorder is imperative as quitting alcohol without any type of medical intervention can lead to severe withdrawal seizures and even death. Treatment initially aims to ease the withdrawal symptoms by close monitoring and prescribing a slow taper of benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines work on the same receptors as alcohol in the brain and can help prevent and worsen the deadly withdrawal effects associated with alcohol addiction. If an individual is experiencing withdrawal symptoms he or she will need to be closely monitored in a hospitalized or residential treatment for approximately 72 hours until withdrawal effects are no longer present. Once the acute withdrawal phase is over, treatment aims to identify the underlying triggers resulting in the alcohol abuse behavior.

The goal of treatment is to replace negative coping skills and patterns with positive cognitive behavioral skills and coping skills that work for you. Just as with any substance abuse or mental health disorder, determining the treatment levels of care is necessary in order to provide the best care. Levels of care range from residential treatment and partial hospitalization to intensive outpatient treatment and regular outpatient treatment. Regardless of the treatment level of care, pharmacological treatment combined with psychotherapy is the mainstay approach for individuals who are seeking treatment for their alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol treatment includes both a pharmacological approach and a psychotherapy approach. Medications are used to prevent cravings associated with alcohol, to lessen or prevent withdrawal effects associated with alcohol and to induce unpleasant side effects when alcohol is consumed. The following medications are used to treat alcohol disorder in teens:

Acamprosate (Campral): Decreases cravings associated with alcohol and reduces alcohol-related withdrawal symptoms.

Disulfuram (Antabuse): Prevents alcohol use by causing severe unwanted side effects when alcohol is consumed after taking this medication.

Naltrexone: An opioid antagonist that works to prevent alcohol consumption by blocking the positive reinforcement effect of alcohol.

Psychotherapy treatment for alcohol addiction in teens

Behavioral therapy, family based approaches and recovery support systems such as Assertive Continuing Care, Mutual Help Groups, and Peer Recovery Support Services are the mainstay of psychotherapy approaches used for alcohol treatment. Behavioral therapy focuses on identifying the negative feelings, thoughts and emotions driving the teen to use alcohol and uses positive behavior approaches, coping skills and problem solving techniques to prevent these thoughts and negative behaviors. Cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy and dialectal behavioral therapy are three types of behavioral therapy that can be used to help treat individuals with alcohol use disorder. Family therapy approaches are used to provide education to the family as a unit about addiction and focus on family stressors and negative behaviors that may be present triggers for the client’s behavior.