Alternative Alcohol Treatment

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Alternative alcohol treatment 

Alternative alcohol treatments help overcome alcohol use disorder. Traditional treatment methods include quitting drinking. This is accomplished by cutting back on alcohol, gradually going "cold turkey," or binge drinking.

Medication is prescribed to help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Heavy drinkers need detox or medical detoxification programmes to remain abstinent because hallucinations and seizures are common side effects of alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal also affects mental health and leads to death. Individuals trying to get over alcohol addiction choose between orthodox or alternative forms of treatment to increase their possibility of success. These are the most popular options that are beneficial.


Alcohol addiction 

Alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder is a state that happens when an individual has alcohol dependence. This dependency has an impact on lifestyle and relationships. Alcohol addiction causes traumatic accidents and liver damage. 

Warning signs of alcohol use disorder are: 

  1. Severe alcohol cravings 
  2. Withdrawal symptoms after quitting drinking 
  3. Physical dependency on alcohol 

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms 

Withdrawal is one of the signs of drug or alcohol dependence. Alcohol withdrawal happens when the body goes through a state of complete abstinence after heavy or prolonged alcohol use. Both the brain and the body get reliant on alcohol over time.

After abruptly quitting drinking, the body craves alcohol, requiring treatment to function without it. This phase of alcohol abuse treatment is associated with health issues and painful side effects like anxiety, nausea, insomnia, and shakes.

The severe symptoms of alcoholism appear anywhere from 6 to a few hours after quitting.

These generally include at least two of these: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Tremors 
  • Headache 
  • Vomiting 
  • Nausea 
  • Irritability 
  • Sweating 
  • Increased heartbeat ratio 
  • Insomnia 
  • Sweating 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Nightmares  

The symptoms worsen over the next few days and persist for weeks in heavy drinkers. They are stronger after awakening with less to no alcohol in the body system.

These withdrawal symptoms alternate violently and quickly. Milder to extremely severe symptoms are experienced while treating addiction.

A variety of alcohol treatment approaches are available to help alcoholics overcome problem drinking.

Specialised alcohol rehab treatment centres and alcohol addiction recovery programmes provide medical advice and offer peer support (mutual support) to overcome alcohol and drug dependence.

Alcohol addiction treatment options 

For decades, people with alcohol dependence have had limited treatment options - with half of them being 12-step-based treatment that requires abstinence. The most popular traditional treatments are mentioned below.

Recently, secular organizations, doctors, and experts have collaborated to find a better approach to the treatment of addiction.

This has resulted in several updated science-backed treatment options. It's crucial to understand that new and traditional treatment programmes work to varying limits.

As with most health issues, specific treatments work better for certain people.

For example, the AA treatment programme includes the patient having a sponsor, cycling through the 12-steps, being religious, believing in divine power, and remaining sober. This is only effective for certain group of people.

Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step treatment process 

Alternative recovery programmes or other support groups for daily online meetings are a better option for those who aren't religious and can't spare time to attend face-to-face meetings. Below is an outline of top alternative therapies to treat AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder).

The 12-step program was promoted by Alcoholics Anonymous and is offered worldwide at drug rehab clinics and treatment centres.

However, it's not the sole treatment option that can help people with alcohol substance use disorder. It's vital to keep in mind that this process isn't a well-defined treatment method. [4]

It's more of a mutual group that offers people the chance to use sponsor relationships, peer bonds, and avenues of self-expression to help maintain abstinence. Even though these recovery programmes were originally designed for narcotics addictions, "12-step groups" remain the most popular treatment to recover from alcohol addiction.

It consists of a 12-step process detailed below: 

  1. Acceptance of being powerless over alcohol and dependence has made life difficult. 
  2. Coming to believe that a higher power can restore order and sanity. 
  3. Accepting a higher power and submitting to it. 
  4. Making an in-depth and courageous moral inventory.  
  5. To make confessions to the higher power, self, and somebody else about the exact nature of personal faults and wrongs.  
  6. Ready the self for God to get over the character flaws. 
  7. Asking God to remove those flaws. 
  8. To make a list of people who have been harmed and be willing to make amends. 
  9. Offering amends to alcoholics wherever possible. 
  10. Continuing to self-reflect, admitting all the wrongs done, and taking a personal inventory. 
  11. Using meditation and prayer to strengthen the link with the higher power. 
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the outcome of these accumulative steps, spreading the message to the needy and practicing these principles throughout life.   

Alternatives to AA meetings and 12-step programme 

For those who are unable to attend traditional alcoholics anonymous meetings, there are several alternatives to AA to consider.

Before choosing any of the various traditional programmes available, it is necessary to conduct research to decide which one is the best fit. Also, to determine which AA alternative serves as an insurance provider and aligns best with self-belief and goals for better outcomes.

RIA Health 

Ria Health is a non-AA programme that combines counselling and anti-craving drugs. This at-home programme offers access to medical counselling, live support groups, and a personal recovery coach. "Addiction experts and healthcare professionals' direct RIA Health" journey.

They assist in the creation of a customised treatment plan based on personal objectives. The goal of the programme is abstinence or moderation.


Programme highlights 

  • Addresses physical and psychological circumstances 
  • Reduces drinking by 70% over a year 
  • Medical counselling via online meetings 
  • One-to-one self-management training 
  • Weekly group calls for peer support
  • Flexible scheduling and low time commitment  
  • Non-judgmental, and offers private recovery support 

Participants learn moderation management and skills to overcome triggers, stigma, and shame.

Coping strategies such as self-help programmes, emotional growth, and harm reduction strategy are also learned. The duration of the programme ranges between 1 to 12 months.


SMART (Self-management and recovery training) recovery 

SMART recovery is a popular alternative to AA and 12-steps groups. Local meetings are held throughout the United Kingdom.

This addiction treatment is based on 4-points; uniting coping strategies, motivation, living a balanced life, and cognitive-behavioural management. The goal of smart recovery is to achieve abstinence.

Programme highlights 

  • Science-based recovery treatment 
  • Mutual support meetings 
  • Non-religious or secular recovery 

Participants gain motivation and develop cognitive-behavioural and coping skills for drinking-related problems. The length of this non-profit programme is determined by the rate of the individual's recovery, and it is free.


Moderation Management (mm programme) 

This programme is for patients with drinking problems who are in the early stages of alcohol and drug dependence. The focus of meetings is mostly on behaviour change. The purpose of the programme is to achieve sobriety. 

Programme highlights 

  • It is a 9-step approach programme that is an alternative to the 12-step programme
  • Early harm reduction, self-recognition, and intervention 
  • Peer meetings 

Participants learn about moderation and coping skills, as well as goal-setting and drinking-monitoring exercises. The length of the programme depends upon achieving abstinence.

Following the conclusion of therapy, meetings are held. Alcoholics are offered completely free treatment


HAMS (Harm reduction for alcohol) 

This peer-led group offers information and support to those who want to quit drinking. It is a 17-step non-profit programme. Abstinence or moderation is the ultimate goal.. 

Programme highlights 

  • Online support forum 
  • Facebook group and chat room 
  • Online support forum and email group 
  • Live meetings and sample recovery plans 

Participants learn abstinence, reduced or safer drinking, small step to change behaviour, and changed drinking habits. The programme's length depends upon the completion of 17-steps. 


This non-profit organisation promotes sobriety by providing high-quality resources, weekly support group meetings, and peer-to-peer in-person support. The programme's goal is to maintain sobriety  

Programme Highlights 

  • Peer-reviewed studies 
  • Secular alternative to alcoholics anonymous 
  • Forum and email groups  

The participants learn stories and get professional medical advice from experts, designed-customized programmes, overcome addiction and support the sober self.

The Program's length depends upon achieving sobriety.

This Naked Mind 

This is another self-help programme that promotes online alcohol awareness and incorporates community as well as a variety of educational materials.

The goal is to deconstruct a person's beliefs about alcohol to minimise cravings and achieve abstinence.

Programme highlights 

  • Medically reviewed coaching 
  • Books and video courses from only high-quality sources 
  • Live events, challenges, and web classes 
  • The audio programme focused on psychological alcohol dependence 

The participants learn how to play conscious and unconscious roles in addiction, liminal thinking, and how setting limits contribute to addiction.

The fee ranges from $15 to $600, and the length of the programme depends on the products used. Insurance pay is not included in this programme.

What is the most popular alcohol abuse programme? 

After Alcoholics Anonymous, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is the most prominent alcohol misuse programme that tackles alcoholism as a non-spiritual alcohol or drug treatment group.

According to UK Addiction Treatment Centres, CBT is an efficient, medically reviewed treatment tool. It is used to treat a variety of addictions, including those to alcohol, food, and prescription drugs.

CBT aids in the identification of unhealthy behavioural patterns as well as recognising triggers and coping methods. During treatment, CBT is used in conjunction with other treatment methods.

"UK Addiction Treatment Centre" is a treatment provider and not a mutual-help support group. It provides medically reviewed comprehensive treatment programmes with an assortment of therapies to those suffering from substance use disorders, allowing patients to choose any programme that best matches self-needs.

What support and treatment facilities are offered in a treatment centre? 

A treatment centre provides support and many care facilities, such as residential care, emotional support, medications, counselling, therapy sessions, and meetings with support groups and health professionals.

However, any person who enters a rehabilitation centre to remain sober must not feel uncomfortable or alienated by its practices and beliefs.

In the United Kingdom, there are numerous alcohol and drug rehabilitation institutes and clinics that provide both inpatient and outpatient therapy for addiction and alcoholism.

Many institutions use 12-step programmes to help people recover, but some also use medically reviewed, evidence-based therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Nowadays, for informational and educational purposes, a rehabilitation centre locator can easily be found online with a directory of spiritual and non-spiritual programmes being offered.

And as far as the support is concerned, research has confirmed that alcoholics who participate in mutual support groups show better results.

If there's a need to join a religious programme, the AA programme is preferable; otherwise, any other support groups will suffice.

There are online forums and scheduled live video chats to participate in, for support.

  • Women for Sobriety 
  • SMART Recovery 
  • Secular organisations for sobriety 
  • LifeRing (Secular recovery) 
  • Rational Recovery 

Bottom line 

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism(NIAAA) offers fundamental knowledge on the impact of alcohol on general well-being and health.

It helps to understand more about the signs and symptoms of addiction, ways in preventing them, and how to treat alcoholism throughout life.

No matter the method of choice, various alternative therapeutic choices make the sobriety journey easier. It's crucial to know that alcohol addiction is a long journey, and there might be moments of cravings and relapses; this is, however, normal.

It's necessary to consult a doctor to know which alternative method will be the best fit for management.

Abbeycare Pricing Bot

About the author

Laura Morris

Laura Morris is an experienced clinical practitioner and CQC Registered Manager with over twenty years experience, over ten of which have been as an Independent Nurse Prescriber.

She has held a number of senior leadership roles in the substance use and mental health sector in the NHS, the prison service and in leading social enterprises in the field.

Last Updated: November 6, 2023