Alcoholism Treatment

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Similar to other diseases, alcoholism can be overcome with proper alcoholism treatment, prevention, and increased research efforts.

Stated differently, as serious as alcohol dependence is, fortunately it can be treated in most instances.

Alcoholism treatment programs typically employ a combination of counseling, education, doctor-prescribed medications, and support to help a person stop drinking.

In fact, this combination may be the current best case scenario.

Stated more precisely, after treating and overcoming an individual's physical dependence via drug therapy and education, counseling and support can then help the individual make the necessary lifestyle changes that help him or her avoid relapse, stay sober, and remain on the road to alcohol recovery.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol addiction and alcohol dependence, is a disease that increasingly gets worse as it advances.

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This disease has been the subject of a number of wide-ranging studies and includes the following four recurring symptoms:

  • Tolerance: the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to feel a "buzz" or to get "high."

  • Loss of control: an inability to stop drinking after the first drink.

  • Craving: having a strong urge or need to drink.

  • Physical dependence: withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, headaches, nausea, perspiration, and "the shakes" when abstaining from alcohol.

Alcoholism Treatment: A Basic Overview

Similar to other diseases, alcoholism can be overcome with prevention, proper alcoholism treatment, and increased research efforts.

By providing more people with access to quality alcoholic treatment, the costly drain on society and the emotional, physical, and financial burden that alcoholism places on families can be significantly reduced.

In fact, research demonstrates irrefutably that successful prevention and alcohol treatment programs result in significant reductions in strokes, unwanted pregnancy, HIV, child abuse, cancer, traffic fatalities, heart disease, and crime.

Moreover, professional alcohol and drug treatment improves job performance, health, and quality of life while at the same time reducing involvement with the criminal justice system, drug use, and family dysfunction.

As serious as alcohol addiction is, fortunately it can be treated. Alcohol treatment programs typically use a combination of counseling and alcohol treatment medications to help a person stop drinking.

Although most alcoholics need help to recover from their disease, research has shown that with support and alcoholism treatment, many people are able to stop drinking and restore their lives.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

A wide variety of different techniques exist for treating alcohol withdrawal. While some of these treatments use medications (drugs), many, however, do not.

In case of point, according to current research studies, the safest way to treat mild withdrawal symptoms is without medications.

Such types of non-drug detoxification efforts use screening and extensive social support throughout the entire withdrawal process.

Other non-drug detoxification programs, additionally, use proper nutrition and vitamin therapy (especially thiamin) in treating mild withdrawal symptoms.

Mild to Moderate Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The following list represents mild to moderate physical withdrawal symptoms that typically occur within 6 to 48 hours after the last alcoholic drink:

  • Pulsating headaches

  • Abnormal movements

  • Enlarged or dilated pupils

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Tremor of the hands

  • Loss of appetite

  • Looking pale

  • Vomiting

  • Clammy skin

  • Sleeping difficulties

  • Sweating (especially on the palms of the hands or on the face)

  • Involuntary movements of the eyelids

  • Nausea

Severe Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The following is a list of severe symptoms that usually take place within 48 to 96 hours after the last alcoholic drink:

  • Convulsions

  • Muscle tremors

  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

  • Severe autonomic nervous system overactivity

  • Black outs

  • Visual hallucinations

  • Fever

  • Seizures

Traditional Forms of Alcohol Treatment

There are a number of traditional alcohol treatment options that are relatively well established.

The following alcoholism remedies and programs will be discussed:

  • Detoxification

  • Behavioral Treatment

  • Therapeutic Medications

  • Outpatient Alcohol Treatment and Counseling

  • Residential Alcohol Treatment Programs

  • Family and Marital Counseling

Detoxification. Alcohol detoxification is the process of letting the body rid itself of alcohol while managing the withdrawal symptoms in a safe environment.

Alcohol detox treatment is usually done under the supervision of a medical practitioner and is often the first step in an alcoholic treatment program.

Due primarily to the relatively long time-frame for the Detox process, these programs are usually part of an inpatient alcohol rehabilitation program.

Behavioral Treatments such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Motivation Enhancement Therapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

A study administered by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that each of these behavioral treatment therapies significantly reduced drinking in patients the year after treatment.

Even though all of these programs were considered successful, none of them could be categorized as "the best" alcoholism treatment program.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Alcoholics Anonymous is a mutual support program for recovering alcoholics that is based on the 12-steps of recovery that are needed in order to stay sober.

Help and support are provided by the meetings that meet on a regular basis. Is Alcoholics Anonymous the best strategy for the treatment of alcoholism?

While AA has proven itself to be an effective therapeutic approach, most practitioners outside of AA, as well as many people within AA, find that Alcoholics Anonymous works best when combined with other forms of treatment such as medical care and psychotherapy.

Motivation Enhancement Therapy(MET) is a systematic therapeutic approach that is almost diametrically opposed to AA in that it uses motivational strategies to activate the client's own change resources. Some of the key characteristics of MET are the following:

  • Emphasis on taking personal responsibility for positive change

  • Therapist empathy

  • Providing the client with a number of alternative change options

  • Providing feedback regarding the personal risks or damage associated with the abuse

  • Receiving clear advice to make healthy changes

  • Helping the client achieve self-efficacy or a sense of optimism

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). There are several forms of cognitive behavior therapy.

Most of them, however, have the following commonalties:

  • CBT theory and techniques rely on the Inductive Method. This method has clients look at their thoughts as hypotheses (or suggested explanations) that can be tested and questioned. If clients discover that their hypotheses are incorrect, they can then change their thoughts and feelings to be more in line with reality.

  • In CBT, a solid therapeutic relationship is necessary but not the primary focal point for effective therapy.

  • CBT uses the Socratic Method that is based on the asking of questions for insight.

  • Homework is a central feature of CBT.

  • CBT is structured and directive.

  • CBT usually has therapeutic sessions that are briefer and fewer in number than most other forms of therapy.

  • CBT is a mutually shared effort between the therapist and the client.

  • CBT is based on an educational model that views most emotions and behavioral reactions as learned responses. Thus, the therapeutic goal in to help the client unlearn undesirable reactions and emotions and replace them with new and more positive ways of feeling and reacting.

  • CBT approaches are based on the cognitive model of emotional response. That is, if we change the way we think, we can act and feel better, even if the situation doesn't change.

  • CBT is based on stoic philosophy. CBT does not tell clients how they should feel. Rather, this form of therapy focuses on helping clients learn how to think more logically and effectively.

Therapeutic Medications. A number of research scientists assert that chronic alcoholics who cannot sustain their sobriety should receive drug therapy to manage and control their withdrawal symptoms.

It is important to point out, incidentally, that by using medications, people who are addicted to alcohol and in withdrawal are less likely to experience possible brain damage and/or seizures.

Recent alcoholism research reveals that the medications most likely to produce effective results when treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms are the benzodiazepines.

Examples include the longer-acting benzodiazepines such as Valium and Librium and the shorter-acting benzodiazepines such as Serax and Ativan.

Historically, medical doctors have used a progressive decrease in doses over the time-span of the withdrawal process when using benzodiazepines.

Furthermore, due to the fact that the shorter-acting benzodiazepines do not remain in the person's system for a disproportionate amount of time and since they allow for observable and measurable dose reductions, many alcohol scientists have claimed that intermediate to short half-life benzodiazepines should be employed for treating withdrawal symptoms.

Another aspect of alcoholism treatment with therapeutic medications focuses on various prescribed drugs such as naltrexone (ReViaT) or disulfiram (Antabuse) that are administered by a doctor in an effort to help prevent the individual from returning to drinking after he or she has experienced a relapse and ingested alcohol.

Simply put, in this intervention approach, doctors prescribe drugs to treat a person's dependency.

For example, antabuse is a drug given to alcoholics that triggers negative effects such as vomiting, dizziness, nausea, and flushing if alcohol is consumed.

Not surprisingly, antabuse is effective precisely because it is a such a strong deterrent.

Naltrexone (ReViaT), from a different perspective is effective because it targets the brain's reward circuits and reduces the craving the client has for alcohol.

As a side note, perhaps the best of both worlds involves drug therapy and counseling.

In other words, after treating and overcoming physical dependence via drug therapy, counseling can then help people make the necessary lifestyle changes that also help them avoid relapse without medications.

Outpatient Alcoholism Treatment and Counseling. There are various approaches to counseling that teach alcoholics how to become aware of the emotional and situational hot buttons that trigger their drinking.

Armed with this information, clients can then learn about different ways in which they can cope with their feelings and situations that do not include the use of alcohol.

Not surprisingly, these types of alcoholism treatment therapies are typically offered on an outpatient basis.

Residential Alcohol Treatment Programs and Inpatient Alcohol Rehab. If outpatient and support-oriented programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous are not effective, if the person's withdrawal symptoms are excessive, if a person needs alcohol poisoning treatment, or if there's a need for alcohol AND drug abuse treatment, the individual usually has to enroll into a residential alcohol treatment facility or hospital and receive inpatient alcohol rehabilitation.

Such programs are geared for alcoholism inpatients and typically include doctor-prescribed drugs to help the person get through detox and alcohol withdrawal treatment in a safe manner.

Family and Marital Counseling. Because the recovery process is so intimately tied to the support the client receives from his or her family, numerous alcohol dependency programs include family counseling and marital counseling as key components in the treatment process.

Such therapeutic programs, moreover, may also provide clients with essential community resources, such as parenting classes, job training, legal assistance, financial management classes, and childcare courses.

Alternative Forms of Alcohol Treatment

Although the research findings are not clear, there are some alternative treatment approaches for alcohol abuse and alcoholism that are becoming more mainstream and widely used.

Examples include "Drumming out Drugs" (a form of therapy that employs the use of drumming by clients), the holistic and naturalistic approaches employed by Traditional Chinese Medicine, and various vitamin and supplement therapies have been proposed as "natural" forms of alcohol abuse treatment.

As promising as these alternative approaches are, more research, however, is needed to establish the effectiveness of such therapeutic approaches and to determine if these approaches offer long term alcohol treatment success.

Teenage Alcoholism

Learning about alcohol treatment is especially significant regarding teenage alcoholics.

That is, if a teenager or a parent of a teenager can read about and understand some of the statistics and facts regarding teen alcohol abuse and teenage alcoholism, they may be able to avoid the damaging effects that are associated with teen alcohol abuse in school, college, or in the workplace and also avoid adolescent alcoholism treatment or the teen alcoholism treatment process entirely.

Conclusion: Alcoholism Treatment

Although a cure for alcoholism does not currently exist, different drug and alcohol treatment programs and alcoholism treatment options, however, exist that help people recover from alcohol dependency.

In short, there is a lot of alcoholism treatment information that is available. Some people ask the following question regarding treating alcoholism: "What is the best type of alcoholism treatment?"

Like any chronic disease, there are different levels and degrees of success regarding alcoholism treatment. For example, some alcoholics, after treatment, abstain from drinking and remain sober.

Other alcoholics, however, experience relatively long periods of sobriety after receiving treatment, and then have a drinking relapse.

And still other alcoholics cannot refrain from drinking for any sustainable period of time, regardless of the type of treatment they have received.

Interestingly, all of these treatment outcomes happen with every known type of alcoholism therapy.

After a review of the literature, perhaps the best form of treatment involves drug therapy and counseling.

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Stated differently, after treating and overcoming a person's physical dependence via drug therapy, counseling can then help the person make the necessary lifestyle changes that help him or her avoid relapse without medications.

Do You Need Alcoholism Treatment?

If you are concerned about your drinking behavior after reading the alcohol information in this article and you feel the need to talk with a counselor, please make it a point to call your local drug and alcohol treatment center today and make an appointment.

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