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Alcohol awareness and treatment options

GEHA | April 19, 2019

How can you tell if drinking alcohol has become a problem for your loved ones?

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a good time to reflect on the role alcohol plays in our lives. Most adults who drink alcohol drink moderately and without complications.

How do you know if drinking alcohol has become a problem for you or a loved one? And where do you go for help if it has?

Alcohol becomes a problem when it impacts your life in a negative way. For example, do you feel anxious or irritable without a drink? Are you drinking to feel better or to cope with stress or other problems? Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is considered a brain disease. Alcohol causes changes in your brain that make it hard to quit.

You may have AUD if you:

  • Feel like you have to drink.
  • Can't control how much you drink.
  • Feel bad when you can't drink.
Treatment options

If you are thinking about treatment, talk with your primary care physician. Discuss your goals. Are you trying to drink less or stop drinking completely? Together, you can make a treatment plan. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. What works for one person may not be a good fit for someone else. Many people find that a combination of treatments works best. Types of treatment include behavioral treatments, medications and support groups.

Behavioral — a counselor or therapist can teach you how to:

  • Change the behaviors that make you want to drink.
  • Deal with stress and other triggers.
  • Build a strong support system.
  • Set goals and reach them.

To learn more about GEHA's telehealth benefit, visit Telehealth.

Medications — Work by offsetting changes in the brain caused by alcoholism, are non-addictive and can be used alone or in combination with other forms of treatment.

Group therapy or support groups — Group therapy can give you the benefits of therapy along with the support of other members. Support groups are groups of people who have AUD. Examples are Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery. Your peers can offer understanding and advice and help keep you accountable. Many people stay in groups for years.

Follow up after hospitalization and emergency room visits

If you receive treatment at a hospital, a residential care facility or an emergency room, be sure to schedule a follow-up visit within seven days with your provider. The first days after being discharged can be high-risk, and your provider can discuss your aftercare plan with you.0

Gather as much information as you can about the program or provider before deciding on treatment. If you know someone who has first-hand knowledge of the program, ask about his or her experience. And remember that recovery can take a long time so you may need ongoing treatment.

The National Institutes of Health has resources that can help you assess your drinking habits and provide information to help you reduce or stop drinking. Rethinking Drinking is an interactive tool at

The NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator helps you search for professional treatment options and provides information about what you need to know and do to find care near you. It is available at

"Alcohol Awareness Month: Learn About Alcohol Use disorder and Ways to Get Help.", National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, 5 April 2018.
"Options for Treatment.", National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, updated September 2023.
"What Are the Treatments for Alcohol Use Disorder?", WebMd LLC, reviewed 29 May 2023.