According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), more than 15 million Americans age 18 and over suffer from alcohol use disorder. Those with alcohol addiction face a long and painful struggle with a life-threatening disease. Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options for alcohol addiction, most of which are rooted in a combination of medical detox and therapeutic counseling. There may be some disagreement as to what medically constitutes alcoholism, but it’s generally agreed that anyone whose life is adversely impacted by alcohol on a regular basis is considered to be an alcoholic.
Alcohol Addiction Rehab
One of the most common refrains of the alcoholic in denial is that he’s merely a “social drinker,” someone who imbibes in order to keep up appearances and fit in socially. But when the social drinker continues drinking when others have stopped, or drinks to excess in uncomfortable or tedious social situations, he is considered to be exhibiting signs of an alcohol disorder. The belief that beer and wine make heavy drinkers less susceptible to alcoholism than the so-called “hard liquors” (such as whiskey, vodka, tequila, etc.) is another misguided and dangerous myth. The abuse of any alcoholic drink can lead to dependency and require treatment.
Binge drinking is another often-misunderstood form of alcohol abuse. Though some drinkers may be able to stop bingeing on their own, prolonged drinking of this type can lead to a serious addictive disorder.
Signs of alcohol disorder
Frequent episodes of slurred or disoriented speech, loss of physical coordination, and a glassy-eyed, unfocused appearance are signs that an individual is in the throes of alcoholism.
Blackouts, depression, and anxiety are just some of the physical manifestations of alcoholism, which also include:
- Hand tremors
- High blood pressure
- Nerve damage
Social indications of a drinking disorder include:
- Serial tardiness or excessive absenteeism at work
- Relationship problems
- Legal and/or financial issues
- Ceasing social interaction and activities due to alcohol abuse
The more one drinks, the greater the tolerance to alcohol becomes, requiring the abuser to drink more and more in order to feel the drug’s effects. Eventually, it becomes necessary to keep drinking just to stave off withdrawal symptoms, which can be lethal. Withdrawal may range from nausea and vomiting to tremors and delirium tremens, or worse. Medical detox is typically indicated when an individual suffers the physical and psychological effects of withdrawal.
Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
If you’ve reached the point of chemical dependency, four stages of treatment typically follow, including intake, detox, rehab and aftercare:
- Intake – Involves meeting with a care professional who makes a comprehensive evaluation of the patient’s condition, an assessment that’s used to outline an individualized treatment. Assessments incorporate the patient’s medical, psychological and psychosocial histories.
- Detox – The unpleasant effects of withdrawal symptoms are managed, and steps are taken to make the patient as comfortable as possible. Detox is a key part of the patient’s transition, because it helps the individual navigate through the difficulty and danger of the disease. Supervision/monitoring and pharmacological interventions are part of this process, which may include the application of medications to alleviate the severity of withdrawal symptoms. For instance, methadone is often prescribed for heroin addicts, while buprenorphine is frequently used in cases of opioid addiction.
- Rehab – Rehab therapy aims to identify triggers, instill strategies for overcoming drug-use behaviors, and teach relapse-prevention habits. Any number of therapeutic approaches may be indicated based on the situation, including:
- Individual therapy, which involves self-analysis and the identification of triggers
- Family therapy, in which family members provide support and help resolve the patient’s emotional issues
- Group therapy, a venue in which addicts interact with and learn from others who have alcohol addiction problems
- Aftercare – An important aspect of ongoing care, aftercare provides patients with long-term support and relapse prevention well beyond the rehab stage. Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process requiring constant support and vigilance, so patients meet with counselors to develop an aftercare program. Depending on the treatment facility and the nature of the individual’s addiction, aftercare support may take place on site, with patients returning as needed.
Alcohol addiction is as physically damaging, and potentially fatal, as any other form of substance abuse, and it requires intensive rehab treatment. If insurance or lack of resources is a problem, many treatment facilities are willing to work out a payment plan or some other form of financial aid to make sure patients are able to cover rehab costs, and receive the care and support they require.
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