Alcohol support

Realising you have a problem with alcohol is the first big step to getting help.

Information written and reviewed by Certified Doctors.

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Alcohol support

Realising you have a problem with alcohol is the first big step to getting help.

You may need help if:

  • you often feel the need to have a drink
  • you get into trouble because of your drinking
  • other people warn you about how much you're drinking
  • you think your drinking is causing you problems

A good place to start is with your doctor. Try to be accurate and honest about how much you drink and any problems it may be causing you.

If you've become dependent on alcohol, you will have found it difficult to fully control your drinking in some way.

So you will probably need some help either to cut down and control your drinking or to stop completely, and also some plans to maintain the improvement after that.

Your doctor may suggest different types of assessment and support options available to you such as from the local community alcohol services.

You can also ask about any free local support groups and other alcohol counselling that may suit you.

If you've become physically dependent and need to stop drinking completely, stopping overnight could be harmful.

You should get advice about this and about any medication you may need to do this safely.

The sorts of withdrawal symptoms that suggest you may need medication include:

  • anxiety after waking
  • sweating and tremors
  • nausea or retching in the morning
  • vomiting
  • hallucinations
  • seizures or fits

Staying healthy and in control

Cutting down or stopping drinking is usually just the beginning, and most people will need some degree of help or some long term plan to stay in control or to stay completely alcohol-free.

Getting the right support can be crucial to maintaining control in the future. Only relying on family, friends or carers for this is often not enough.

Ask your doctor or your alcohol service about what longer term support is available in your area. Self-help or mutual aid groups (groups such as AA or SMART Recovery groups) are accessible in most areas.

Alcohol detoxification

Most people receive their support to stop drinking and their recovery support in the community.

If you need medication to help you stop drinking, it can often be taken at home or when attending a local service daily.

However, some people will need a short stay in a 24-hour medically-supported unit so they can receive safe treatment of their withdrawal symptoms or other problems.

This may be in an inpatient unit, or in a medically-supported residential service, depending on your situation and the assessed medical need.

Intensive rehabilitation

Some people are assessed as needing intensive rehabilitation and recovery support for a period after they stop drinking completely; either through attending a programme of intensive support in their local community or by attending a residential rehabilitation service.

This type of intensive treatment is usually reserved for people with medium or high levels of alcohol dependence, and particularly those who have received other forms of help previously that have not been successful.

Local authorities are responsible for alcohol treatment services. The intensive residential rehabilitation packages may require an additional assessment process to determine access to the funding for this.

It's also possible to pay for residential rehabilitation privately and medical insurance companies may fund this for a certain period.

Get more information about treatments for alcohol dependency in Health A-Z .

Content supplied by NHS Choices