Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Treatment of alcoholism: New results

In Brief

Treatment of alcoholism: New results

In 1997, Project MATCH — sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) — found that three psychosocial treatments for alcoholism were all about equally effective: cognitive behavioral therapy to correct distorted and self-defeating thinking; motivational interviewing to improve willingness and readiness to quit; and 12-step facilitation to prepare patients for Alcoholics Anonymous.

Further studies under the same sponsorship are yielding results. This time, psychosocial treatments were combined with one or both of two medications that were not available at the time of Project MATCH. Some combinations proved more effective than others, but the advantages did not last long. Meanwhile, other research is showing that many alcoholics may need no treatment at all.

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