Alcoholism is a serious disease affecting 6.8 percent of Americans. Alcohol addiction occurs when the body becomes chemically dependent upon the substance, and a person may also have an emotional dependence as well.
Alcoholism is a complex disorder that is treatable, but has no known cure. An alcoholic has to learn to abstain from the addicting substance. An addiction typically develops due to a combination of psychological, emotional, social, genetic, and biological factors.
For many people, both the emotional or psychological and biological underlying factors must be addressed in order to fully recover from the addiction. There are a variety of treatment options available for those struggling with alcoholism, some of which are used concurrently for some people.
Alcoholism is not a disease that can be cured by taking medication. However, there is some medication approved for use in treating alcoholism.
Most people take medication to ease the symptoms of withdrawal during the detox phase of treatment, especially any tremors, seizures, or delirium tremens. Some people are given disulfiram (Antabuse), which produces an adverse physical reaction when alcohol is consumed.
Another medication used is Naltrexone, which blocks the euphoria caused by alcohol, which can reduce the compulsion to drink. Another drug, acamprosate, helps to combat the cravings. Some people in the recovery community do not support the use of drugs to help treat alcoholism.
An important element of treatment for alcoholism is going to therapy. Many people begin to drink to numb emotional distress, either due to trauma or stress.
They may also have a psychological condition, such as depression or anxiety, which they choose to self-medicate by using alcohol. Unless these underlying or co-occurring conditions are addressed, then it will be difficult to treat the alcoholism.
There are many different types of psychological counseling, but the one most often used for treating alcoholism is cognitive behavioral therapy. Psychological counseling can be done through outpatient therapy sessions, but many people find intensive treatment more successful.
The best type of treatment for alcoholism is dedicated treatment facilities that offer an intensive and comprehensive treatment. Many facilities offer inpatient and outpatient options, as well as detox.
The treatment programs will include a variety of services, including individual and group psychotherapy and education about coping mechanisms, stress reduction techniques, overcoming cravings, and more. Additionally, they often include complementary alternative therapeutic activities such as yoga, meditation and exercise.
Many facilities offer a person a continuum of care that begins with inpatient detox and intensive treatment solutions followed by outpatient and aftercare services.
Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery offer those struggling with alcoholism another treatment option. Although support groups are beneficial, especially during early recovery, they do not provide the psychological support that counseling and rehab facilities offer.
They provide a support network of people who understand what the person is going through and can offer advice and a caring ear, which many find beneficial. Many people find support groups helpful after they have completed a stay in a rehab facility.
Combination of Treatment
Although each of these treatment options can be used individually, many people find that they use more than one in their treatment program. Medications might be used initially to help a person detox from alcohol and reduce cravings.
An intensive treatment program in a dedicated facility will include psychotherapy and support groups, followed by aftercare and a continuation of psychotherapy and support group attendance. Many people will also live in sober living facilities after treatment to provide additional support with the transition back to their life.
It takes lifelong maintenance and sobriety to overcome alcohol addiction. Studies have shown that those who undergo intensive treatment followed by aftercare, sober living and attend