Secrets to Stopping Alcohol Cravings With Dr. John Umhau

Dr. John Umhau

Verywell / Julie Bang 

Every Monday on The Verywell Mind Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin, LCSW, interviews experts, authors, entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians, and other inspirational people about the strategies that help them think, feel, and do their best in life.

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Meet Dr. John Umhau

John Umhau is a physician and addiction medicine specialist. His telemedicine practice focuses on the treatment of alcohol use disorder through diet, medication, and The Sinclair Method

He spent more than 20 years as a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

He’s authored more than 50 scientific publications. Some of his research has focused on measuring the brain update of the essential omega-3 fatty acid DHA as well as the link between vitamin D deficiency and suicide.

Why Dr. Umhau Is Mentally Strong

Dr. Umhau doesn’t just prescribe medications. He conducts his own research on treatment options before advising his patients. He’s willing to share the pros and cons of various approaches, and he’s not afraid to express concerns about certain practices in the pharmaceutical industry.

He also takes his own advice. He talks about the benefits he’s gained from omega-3 fatty acids in his own life. 

He’s willing to help his patients in some less traditional ways as well. He talks about nutrition more than most physicians and he provided telemedicine before the pandemic made it popular to do so.

What You’ll Hear on the Show

  • Why medication is so effective in curbing the cravings for alcohol
  • Why many people still don’t know that medication can be helpful
  • The simple diet change that could make a huge difference in the brain and reduce someone’s cravings for alcohol
  • Why omega-3 fatty acids are good for your brain even if you don’t drink alcohol
  • How “The Sinclair Method” changes the brain so people no longer want to drink alcohol
  • Naltrexone and other medications that can be used to reduce problem drinking
  • How alcohol depletes the brain and body of essential vitamins and nutrients
  • How to establish a lifestyle that promotes healthier habits and why this is essential for long-term success
  • The importance of vitamin D in reducing the risk of depression
  • Why some cultures have fewer individuals with alcohol problems than others
  • Why more willpower isn’t the solution to beating addiction
  • What everyone needs to know about inflammation, gut bacteria, and diet
  • Where to find help if you’re drinking is getting out of control

What You’ll Learn About Addiction

Medical professionals often tell people to stop using substances without giving them tools to quit. Consequently, many people fail in their attempts to cut down on drinking or stop using drugs.

There are many ways to address substance use and mental health problems (two things that often go hand-in-hand). Sometimes brain chemistry has been altered to the point that it’s nearly impossible for someone to make behavioral changes that could improve their lives.

The struggle to give up an addiction or change a destructive behavior doesn’t necessarily stem from a lack of mental strength. A combination of factors, ranging from genetics to brain chemistry, are at play. 

It’s important to find a physician or mental health provider who can recommend treatment based on your specific needs. Treatment needs for addiction vary greatly, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

Quotes From Dr. Umhau

John Umhau, MD

One of the critical things that people should know if they have friends, or loved ones, or even themselves who have alcohol problems is that there are medicines that really can reduce the craving for alcohol.

— John Umhau, MD
  • When you have someone who's kind of trapped by alcohol, they can't imagine not drinking. It's like they would die if they don't have a drink. 
  • When you drink, brain pathways are developed to promote drinking. So you associate the thoughts of alcohol with pleasure. You associate going to a bar and drinking with pleasure. You associate all the taste of wine and alcohol and so forth with pleasures. And so your brain is wired to go that way. 
  • The alcoholic brain is very different than the healthy brain. And the people with alcoholism, when they stop drinking, they have a much greater need for omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Life is too short to be wasted on chemical pleasure. Look for pleasures in spirituality. Look for pleasures in your friends and loved ones. 

More About the Podcast

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By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.