Treatment for Alcoholism

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

While alcoholism cannot currently be cured, the good news, however, is that as serious as it is, it can be treated.

Treatment for alcoholism typically includes a combination of doctor prescribe medications and therapeutic counseling to help an individual abstain from drinking and maintain long term sobriety.

Treatment for Alcoholism: A Necessary Overview

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

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

Indeed, research studies show strong evidence that successful alcoholism treatment programs and alcoholism prevention efforts result in significant reductions in cancer, hearth disease, child abuse, strokes, traffic fatalities, crime, unwanted pregnancy, HIV, and child abuse.

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

As serious as alcoholism is, fortunately it can be treated.

Treatment for alcoholism usually includes a combination of counseling and alcohol treatment medications to help a person refrain from drinking.

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

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol addiction and alcohol dependence, is a progressive debilitating disease that includes the following four symptoms.

  • Physical dependence: withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, “the shakes,” anxiety, headaches, and perspiration when refraining from alcohol.
  • Craving: having a strong urge or need to drink.
  • Tolerance: the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to get “high” or to feel a “buzz.”
  • Loss of control: an inability to stop drinking after the first drink.

Treatment for Alcoholism: Withdrawal Symptoms

A number of different techniques exist for treating alcoholism withdrawal. Whereas some of these therapies use medications, many, on the other hand, do not.

Interestingly, according to current research findings, the safest way to treat mild withdrawal symptoms is without drugs.

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

Other non-drug detoxification therapies, moreover, use vitamin therapy (especially thiamin) and proper nutrition for treating mild withdrawal symptoms.

Mild to Moderate Withdrawal Symptoms

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

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Clammy skin
  • Vomiting
  • Pulsating headaches
  • Sweating (especially on the palms of the hands or on the face)
  • Enlarged or dilated pupils
  • Nausea
  • Tremor of the hands
  • Loss of appetite
  • Looking pale
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal movements
  • Involuntary movements of the eyelids
  • Sleeping difficulties

Severe Withdrawal Symptoms

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

  • Black outs
  • Delirium tremens (“The DTs”)
  • Severe autonomic nervous system overactivity
  • Fever
  • Black outs
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors
  • Convulsions

Treatment for Alcoholism: Traditional Approaches

There are a number of traditional alcohol treatment options that are considered “mainstream” therapies.

The following alcoholism treatment programs and therapies will be discussed:

  • Outpatient Alcoholism Treatment and Counseling
  • Detoxification
  • Behavioral Treatment
  • Therapeutic Medications
  • Residential Alcoholism Treatment Programs
  • Family and Marital Counseling

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

Equipped with this information, people can therefore learn about different ways in which they can cope with circumstances that do not include the use of alcohol.

Not surprisingly, therapies such as these are usually offered on an outpatient basis.

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.

Detox programs are usually part of an inpatient alcohol rehabilitation program.

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

It is interesting to note that according to a study administered by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, each of these three behavioral treatment therapies significantly reduced drinking in patients the year after treatment.

Although all three of these programs were considered “successful,” none of them, however, could be categorized as “the best” treatment for alcoholism.

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 convene on a regular basis.

Is Alcoholics Anonymous the best strategy for the treatment of alcoholism?

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

Motivation Enhancement Therapy(MET) is a systematic therapeutic approach that is almost the total opposite of Alcoholics Anonymous in that it uses motivational strategies to activate the client’s own change mechanisms.

Some of the main characteristics of MET are the following:

  • Receiving clear advice to make healthy changes
  • Providing feedback regarding the personal risks or damage associated with the abuse
  • Therapist empathy
  • Helping the client achieve self-efficacy or a sense of optimism
  • Providing the client with a number of alternative change options
  • Emphasis on taking personal responsibility for positive change

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

Most of them, however, have the following commonalties:

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

Therapeutic Medications. In this treatment approach, the alcoholic takes doctor-prescribed medications such as disulfiram (Antabuse) or naltrexone (ReViaT) in an effort to help prevent the person from returning to drinking after he or she has ingested alcohol.

Stated differently, with this approach, doctors prescribe medications (drugs) to treat alcoholism.

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

Obviously, antabuse is effective basically because it is a strong deterrent.

Naltrexone (ReViaT), conversely, targets the brain’s reward circuits and is effective because it reduces the craving the alcoholic has for alcohol.

Residential Alcohol Treatment Programs and Inpatient Alcohol Rehab. An individual typically has to enroll into a hospital or a residential alcohol treatment facility and receive inpatient alcohol rehab treatment under the following situations:

  • The person needs alcohol poisoning treatment
  • The person’s alcohol withdrawal symptoms are severe
  • Outpatient programs or support-oriented programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous are not effective
  • There’s a need for alcohol AND drug abuse or addiction treatment

In a word, inpatient, residential alcohol treatment programs are usually targeted for more complex situations and frequently include doctor-prescribed medications to help the problem drinker get through detoxification and the alcohol withdrawal treatment process in a safe manner.

Family and Marital Counseling. Due to the fact that the recovery process is so intimately tied to the support the client receives from his or her family, a number of alcoholism programs include family therapy and marital counseling as key aspects in the treatment process.

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

Treatment for Alcoholism: Alternative Therapies

Although the research findings are not definitive, there are a number of alternative treatment approaches for alcohol abuse and alcoholism that are becoming more mainstream, widely used, and more researched.

Examples include the following therapies that have been proposed as “natural” forms of alcohol abuse treatment:

  • Vitamin and supplement therapies
  • Holistic and naturalistic approaches employed by Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Drumming out Drugs, a form of therapy that employs the use of drumming by clients

As promising as these alternative approaches are, more research, nonetheless, is needed to establish their effectiveness and to determine if these forms of treatment for alcoholism offer long term success.

Teen Alcoholism

Learning about alcohol treatment is especially important concerning teen alcoholism.

More specifically, if a teenager or a parent of a teenager can read about and comprehend some of the facts and statistics about teenage alcohol abuse and teen alcoholism, they might be able to avoid the deleterious consequences that are associated with teenage alcohol abuse and alcoholism in the workplace, school, or in college.

More exposure to relevant information also means that our youth may be able to avoid adolescent alcoholism treatment or the teen alcoholism treatment process entirely.

Conclusion: Treatment for Alcoholism

Even though a cure for alcoholism does not currently exist, numerous drug and alcohol therapeutic methodologies and alcoholism treatment programs, however, exist that help alcoholics recover from their alcohol dependency.

In a word, 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 treatment for alcoholism”?

Like any chronic disease, there are different levels and degrees of success concerning alcoholism treatment.

For instance, some alcoholics, after treatment, refrain from drinking and remain sober.

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

And still other alcoholics cannot abstain from drinking alcohol for any sustainable period of time, no matter what type of treatment they have received.

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

In any event regarding alcoholism treatment, however, one thing is clear: the longer a person stays away from drinking alcohol, the more likely he or she will be able to remain sober and avoid treatment for alcoholism.

Having said this, if you are interested in talking with a counselor at a drug and alcohol rehab facility, please call your local drug and alcohol treatment center today.