Alcoholism Treatment
in Boston, MA

Learn how alcohol use disorders are treated

Alcoholism, now more properly called “alcohol use disorder” or “AUD”, is defined as a chronic, relapsing condition marked by a compulsion to drink alcohol. Many people mistakenly blame alcohol use disorders on a lack of self-control, but it is a real disease. Without an appropriate course of treatment, serious health and personal problems are likely to occur.

Treatment is needed to help manage any diseases, including alcohol use disorders. For more information on finding a reputable treatment center, call Boston Drug Rehab Treatment Centers at 617-517-6448.

Understanding Alcohol Use Disorders

Up until the release of the DSM-V in 2013, alcoholism and alcohol abuse were considered separate psychiatric disorders. In the DSM-IV, alcoholism was defined by compulsive drinking while alcohol abuse was used for who people engaged in destructive drinking behavior but don’t fit the criteria for alcoholism. Today, both are considered to be one disease. However, treatment centers may still use alcoholism and alcohol abuse to better communicate with recovering individuals and their families.

Generally speaking, alcohol use disorders are very difficult to treat by one’s self. If a person has a severe alcohol use disorder, chances are they need a medically-supervised detox and rehab at a treatment center to recover.

hands holding a glass of whiskey

Common health issues

Excessive drinking can cause a variety of health problems. Unhealthy drinking behavior increases the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. Liver disease, including cirrhosis and fatty liver, is another common consequence.

Long-term alcohol misuse may cause permanent brain damage, and many alcoholics experience sexual problems. In addition to causing these serious physical problems, alcoholism can derail a person’s career and damage their relationships. Also, being intoxicated while driving or working can put other people’s lives at risk.

Increased tolerance is a classic symptom of alcohol use disorder: Individuals with an AUD require more and more alcohol to achieve the desired effects. They may also experience symptoms of withdrawal when they go without alcohol, and they find themselves needing alcohol just to function normally.

Alcohol use disorder treatment options

Seeking treatment for drinking problems hasn’t always been as socially acceptable as it is today: Addiction was not yet understood to be a disease and was more often considered to be considered a moral flaw. Even in cases where it was recognized as a disease, treatment for the condition often involved asylums.

Today’s alcohol use disorder treatment programs are evidence-based, and they usually include a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and behavioral modification. A large number of supplemental therapy approaches are also available to help improve results for individuals who may not be responding to standard treatments. This may include exercise therapy, yoga, art therapy, animal therapy, and other alternative approaches. Ultimately, the right Massachusetts alcohol rehab for you will depend on your needs and preferences.

Stages of AUD treatment

Regardless of the specific programs and courses of treatment, people being treated for AUD will typically go through the following treatment stages:

Withdrawal management / detoxification

An individual with an AUD needs to admit that they have a problem before they can begin a treatment program. Once they acknowledge the problem, the first step to recovery is entering a withdrawal management program or what is commonly referred to as a “medical detox”.

A person with an AUD should never try to quit drinking on their own. Alcohol withdrawal can cause dangerous symptoms and even fatalities in severe cases. For this reason, constant medical supervision is essential during substance withdrawal.

During the process, medications may be administered to lessen withdrawal symptoms and stabilize the patient. Many recovering individuals also benefit from hydration and nutritional supplements as they complete the withdrawal process.

Early abstinence

Once the withdrawal management program is complete, the period of early abstinence begins. The physical alcohol dependence may be broken, but the cravings usually remain. Cravings for alcohol may be strong during this stage, and the risk of relapse is high without counseling and therapy.

Rehab centers are staffed with psychiatrists, counselors, social workers, and other professionals to work with patients and help them through the early days of recovery. These treatment specialists help patients identify potential triggers and develop coping skills. The techniques learned during rehab are intended to be used after the completion of the program.


The last stage of rehabilitation is known as the maintenance phase. For individuals recovering from alcohol use disorders, it usually begins after a patient has achieved a minimum of 90 days of abstinence. If a patient has completed the early weeks of their recovery in a residential program, they may make the transition to outpatient treatment at this point, if they show progress. 

The main focus of this phase is relapse prevention, and many recovering individuals rely on support groups and 12-step programs to keep them on the right track. Ongoing therapy, combined with support from family and friends, can also help recovering people resist the urge to drink.

Find help for AUD today

Boston is fortunate to have access to excellent services related to the treatment and rehabilitation of people with alcohol use disorder. For help finding alcohol treatment centers in Massachusetts, contact Boston Drug Rehab Treatment Centers at 617-517-6448.