Alcohol misuse cannot be regarded as a disease to be 'cured' by doctors. The responsibility for change in behaviour rests with the drinker, the professional's role being to facilitate this change. There is limited point in attempting to treat those who deny their problem, or do not want to overcome it. Some who are well motivated stop drinking of their own accord; others need professional help, but the strength of motivation is the most powerful predictor of treatment success.

Intervention is probably most effective at an early stage, but most alcohol misusers do not seek help until they are forced to do so and their condition is advanced. Once heavy drinking has become established and physical dependence is present, results of treatment are less favourable.

Total abstinence is the traditional goal, especially for those with physical dependence or physical complications. Controlled drinking is a realistic aim for some milder cases. Treatment methods include the following.

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