The thinking about problem drinking and alcoholism has changed. It’s no longer considered a black-and-white, you have it or you don’t condition.
“We now know that there’s a full spectrum in alcohol use disorder,” says George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcohohlism, part of the National Institutes of Health. You can have a mild, moderate or severe problem.
And there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to getting help. There is a wide range of options — from residential “detox” programs to cognitive behavioral therapy, to medications such as naltrexone that can help people drink less, or acamprosate, which can help people stay dry. But many people who might need help don’t know these options exist. It’s a big obstacle to treatment.
“A lot of people struggling with alcohol problems do not know where to turn,” Koob says. “Ninety percent of adults in the U.S. with an alcohol use disorder don’t get any treatment whatsoever.”