What is the First-Line Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), also known as alcoholism, is a chronic condition. Alcohol Use Disorder is the inability to control one’s drinking, leading to negative consequences in various areas of life. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), over 14 million adults in the United States alone have AUD. If left untreated, alcohol use disorder can lead to severe health problems, financial difficulties, and damage to personal relationships. Fortunately, alcoholism treatment is available to help those struggling with alcohol addiction. This article will discuss the first-line treatment options for alcohol use disorder.

Assessment and Diagnosis

The first step in treating alcoholism or alcohol use disorder is a comprehensive assessment and diagnosis. A healthcare professional or addiction specialist will typically interview the patient to gather information about the individual’s drinking history and any related medical or mental health conditions. They may also use standardized questionnaires or assessments to determine the severity of the AUD. This information will help to determine the best course of treatment.

Alcohol Detox

Medical detox is the next step in treating alcoholism. It is a process in which an individual with an alcohol addiction undergoes supervised withdrawal from alcohol in a hospital or addiction treatment center. During detox, the individual’s vital signs and symptoms of withdrawal will be monitored. Medication will be administered to ease withdrawal symptoms, such as tremors, seizures, and delirium tremens. It lasts from a few days to a week. After the detox, the individual will typically transition into a rehabilitation program where they receive therapy, counseling, and support. Additional treatment will help them maintain sobriety and learn to live free from alcohol addiction.

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies are the most commonly used treatment for alcohol use disorder. These therapies aim to change the individual’s attitudes and behaviors related to drinking and to help them develop new skills and strategies needed to maintain their sobriety. Some of the most commonly used behavioral therapies for alcohol use disorder include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on identifying and altering negative thought patterns and behaviors related to drinking.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) is designed to increase an individual’s motivation to change their drinking behavior.
  • Contingency management is a strategy that rewards individuals for maintaining abstinence from alcohol.


Several medications have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help individuals with alcohol use disorder. These medications can be used alone or in combination with behavioral therapies. Some of the most commonly used medications for alcohol use disorder include:

  • Naltrexone helps to reduce cravings and prevent relapse.
  • Acamprosate helps to reduce symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and to avoid relapse.
  • Disulfiram causes an individual to experience unpleasant symptoms when they drink alcohol.

Medical Management

For individuals with alcohol use disorder, it is vital to receive proper medical management to ensure that any medical complications are treated and monitored. This can include managing withdrawal symptoms, treating any underlying medical conditions, and providing ongoing care to prevent relapse. Additionally, Individuals with AUD often have Vitamin B1 deficiency or Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome and thus would require Vitamin B1 supplementation.

Follow-up Care

The treatment of alcohol use disorder is ongoing, and follow-up care is integral to recovery. This can include continuous therapy, support groups, and participation in self-help programs. Additionally, regular check-ins with a healthcare professional can help ensure that the individual remains on track with recovery. This way, they can receive any additional support or treatment.

Get The Help You Need

Alcohol use disorder is a serious chronic condition that can significantly affect an individual’s health and well-being. However, with the help of professional alcoholism treatment and support, individuals can successfully manage their addiction and achieve lasting sobriety. A combination of behavioral therapies and medication is typically considered as first-line treatment for alcohol use disorder. Medical management and follow-up care are also essential parts of the recovery process. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol use disorder, it is vital to seek help as soon as possible.