September 5


Priority Check: Which Alcoholism Treatment Goal Should Nurses Tackle First?

By Joshua Turner

September 5, 2023

When treating alcoholism, there are a variety of goals that nurses must address. However, determining which goal to prioritize can be a challenging task.

While all goals are important, some may be more pressing than others depending on the patient’s condition. This article will discuss the various goals for treating alcoholism and provide guidance on which goal nurses should address first.

Prioritizing treatment goals is crucial in helping patients overcome alcoholism. By addressing the most pressing issues first, nurses can provide patients with the support they need to succeed in their recovery. This article will provide nurses with the tools they need to assess a patient’s condition and determine which goals to prioritize in their treatment plan.

Key Takeaways

Assessing the Patient’s Condition

Assessing the patient’s condition is crucial in determining the appropriate treatment for alcoholism. By checking vital signs and blood alcohol levels, as well as monitoring for withdrawal symptoms, the nurse can ensure that the patient receives the necessary care to overcome their addiction and improve their overall health.

Vital Signs and Blood Alcohol Level

The nurse should begin by checking the patient’s vital signs, including blood pressure, pulse rate, and respiratory rate. These measurements will help the nurse determine if the patient is experiencing any physical complications due to alcoholism. The nurse should also check the patient’s blood alcohol level to determine the severity of their condition.

Withdrawal Symptoms

The nurse should also assess the patient for withdrawal symptoms, such as tremors, seizures, and hallucinations. These symptoms can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. The nurse should also ask the patient about any previous injuries or medical conditions that may be exacerbated by alcohol withdrawal.

Prioritizing Treatment Goals

When treating alcoholism, nurses should prioritize treatment goals based on the individual needs of the patient. The following subsections outline the most important goals for treatment.

Addressing Withdrawal Symptoms

The first priority when treating alcoholism is to address withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe and can include shaky hands, irritability, anxiety, diaphoresis, nightmares, and even acute psychosis.

Nursing interventions can include one-on-one supervision, force fluids, and sedative drugs such as lorazepam, chlordiazepoxide, and olanzapine. In severe cases, a vest-type restraint may be necessary to prevent harm to the patient.

Encouraging Abstinence

The second priority is to encourage abstinence from alcohol. This can be achieved through group therapy, self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and referral to a health care provider for detoxification. Nurses can also provide coping strategies and support for patients struggling with cravings and the temptation to drink.

Providing Medications

The third priority is to provide medications that can help with alcohol withdrawal and prevent relapse. Medications such as naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram (Antabuse) can be effective in reducing cravings and promoting sobriety.

However, it is important to note that medication should not be the sole treatment for alcoholism and should always be used in conjunction with other forms of therapy.

Referring to Support Groups


The fourth priority is to refer patients to support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other self-help groups. These groups provide a network of peers who can offer support, encouragement, and accountability to individuals struggling with alcoholism. Support groups can also provide a sense of community and belonging, which can be crucial in maintaining sobriety.


In conclusion, when treating alcoholism, nurses face the challenge of determining which goals to prioritize. While all goals are important, addressing withdrawal symptoms should be the first priority. Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe and require immediate attention to ensure the patient’s safety.

Following the management of withdrawal symptoms, nurses should prioritize encouraging abstinence, providing medications to aid in sobriety, and referring patients to support groups.

These priorities collectively contribute to the patient’s recovery journey by addressing both the immediate physical needs and long-term psychological support necessary for sustained sobriety.

By understanding the individual needs of each patient and tailoring the treatment plan accordingly, nurses can play a crucial role in helping patients overcome alcoholism and achieve lasting recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about this topic.

What are some common withdrawal symptoms of alcoholism treatment?

Withdrawal symptoms can vary in severity and duration depending on the patient’s level of alcohol dependence. Common symptoms include tremors, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, and seizures. It is important for the nurse to monitor the patient closely and provide appropriate interventions to manage symptoms.

How can the nurse assess the patient’s readiness for treatment?

Assessment of the patient’s readiness for treatment should focus on their motivation, support system, and level of alcohol dependence. The nurse can use standardized tools such as the AUDIT or CAGE questionnaires to assess alcohol use and dependence. Additionally, the nurse should explore the patient’s personal goals and values to determine their motivation for treatment.

What interventions can the nurse implement to address the patient’s physical health?

The nurse should prioritize interventions to manage the patient’s physical health, including hydration, nutrition, and rest. The nurse should also monitor for signs of withdrawal and provide appropriate medications to manage symptoms. Additionally, the nurse can provide education on the negative effects of alcohol on physical health and encourage the patient to make healthy lifestyle changes.

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