A person might drink to be social within moderate and low-risk guidelines, but for some people, this use has deepened into abuse, in a manner that is so severe as to become alcoholism. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reported that in 2014, 16.3 million adults had an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Alcoholism can disrupt or threaten your relationships, your job, your schooling, and your physical, mental, and emotional health. The presence of these disruptions can often fuel a downward spiral of self-medication.
Many times a person is aware of the damage they are causing to themselves and those they love, but in some instances, their drinking is so severe that they are out of touch with much of the world around them. Rather than facing the consequences or altering their behavior, they continue to drink to avoid thinking or dealing with the situations at hand. The more they drink, the more these things become compounded. It is when a person continues drinking in the face of these scenarios and dangers that they suffer from alcoholism.
There are several things that are indicative of a person’s use being severe enough to be considered alcoholism. They are:
- Continued drinking despite physical, mental, emotional, or physiological damage and problems
- Continued drinking in the face of damage to your personal, educational, or vocational interactions
- Intense cravings for alcohol
- An inability to moderate the amount you’re drinking
- Symptoms of withdrawal arise when you stop drinking
Contending With Withdrawal
Withdrawal from alcohol can be very severe. If you have any other health problems, this is the time at which you need to inform your medical team. Depending on the severity, it can happen in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Typically, sedative drugs will be administered and the level of sedation will be determined based again on the severity of withdrawal.
Blood and other tests might be performed to monitor your body’s functions, including keeping track of your blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and respiration. You may receive an IV to help keep you hydrated and provide a quicker means of administering medication.
Initiating and entering treatment is the best option for those suffering from addiction to alcohol. Treatment can begin to take place in a variety of ways—by choice, through an intervention, or as mandated by the judicial system for an alcohol-related offense. It is true that the way by which you arrive at the point where the process begins can alter in part the process itself, however, this is not to say that a person who does not choose help for themselves cannot achieve sobriety or success within their recovery.
An intervention is when people around you—they may be family, friends, or even coworkers—intercede and confront you about the devastation that your drinking is causing. Sometimes they might gather together and bring you into the group, taking time to speak to you about how they see your life and health changing or the damage that they are witnessing. This can be a very emotional time for all parties involved.
Sometimes the person who suffers from the drinking problem is so wrought up within it that they have a hard time seeing out or maintaining the positive emotions that can incite change, such as hope, optimism, and determination. These things can be very hard to hold onto when you’re experiencing alcohol abuse this severe. This is why it can be helpful to have people around you who can exemplify these things for you and give you something to hold onto as you begin your journey.
Some people may have to enter into treatment because it’s court mandated. This might arise for various reasons, with some of the more common being: minor in possession charge (MIP), driving while intoxicated (DWI), or driving under the influence (DUI). Though it might not be known that a person suffers from alcoholism at the time of the incident or sentencing, these charges can bring this reality to the surface. A person will likely be required to undergo an alcohol screening and evaluation which can then illustrate the severity of the issue at hand.
Sometimes a person chooses to seek help on their own. This person has the benefit of going into the situation willingly, which in theory means that they will be more open to accepting the reality of the situation and the changes that must ensue to regain control over their life. Again, anyone can benefit from rehabilitation, not just a person who took the initiative to seek it on their own.
Determining The Scope Of The Problem
Regardless of how you got there, a screening and evaluation is an essential part of the treatment process. NIAAA cites that “Detecting alcohol abuse and dependence early in the course of disease enables clinicians to get people the help they need, either by initiating a brief intervention or by referring the patient to treatment.” Your addiction support team needs to understand the scope of your alcohol use so that they may ascertain how to best help you.
A screening is the first step and consists of what is typically a self-administered test. One of the most common, and perhaps the shortest, is the CAGE Questionnaire, with a second being the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) which the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) describes as
a 10-item screening tool developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to assess alcohol consumption, drinking behaviors, and alcohol-related problems.
A longer and more intensive screening tool is the Alcohol Use Inventory (AUI). This tool gives the practitioner insight into how a person thinks and encounters their alcohol use so that they might tailor the approach to best serve the addicted individual while also guiding them within the person’s therapy sessions.
Due to the fact that screenings may be self-administered, the results are not always accurate. Some people find it hard to be honest, in part due to either shame, fear, or denial. Remember, being honest is to your benefit as it can give you a leg up on your path towards sobriety.
The test results will exemplify to the therapist or other addiction specialist a baseline rendering of your alcohol abuse so that they may then dig deeper within the evaluation to understand the full extent of your situation. The evaluation will also give them a chance to ask you questions that go beyond a simple yes or no, allowing them to find out information that you were unable or unwilling to convey on the screening.
Once these things have occurred, the team that is helping you can adapt their treatment protocol to best serve your situation and needs.
Today you have many options, as a wide variety of treatment programs exist that are geared at helping people who come from all walks of life. As every person who suffers from alcoholism is different, you should take the time to research your options before deciding which avenue of care is best for you. Some programs are faith-based, whereas others are not. A person might choose a facility that is in their town or state, or might seek a program that is out-of-state so that they may completely remove themselves from their lives in order to focus more fully on their recovery. Some programs spend a great deal of time outdoors or offer special diets, while others offer holistic practices such as massage, meditation, and yoga.
Within treatment, a person can receive care through either an outpatient or inpatient setting. This choice may depend on the severity of the situation, a person’s life circumstances, or financial concerns. For instance, some people may be unable to leave the demands of their life behind. An outpatient program will allow them to continue to fulfill these responsibilities while working towards their sobriety.
Some people might need to entirely leave their everyday life behind so that they can wholly focus on their recovery. An inpatient program will meet these needs by allowing them to remove themselves from the people, situations, and possible temptations or triggers that might make recovery harder. Within these programs, a person’s day is highly structured and they have access to and support from a staff that is explicitly trained within the management of alcoholism, including withdrawal and detoxification.
Sometimes, due to the aforementioned reasons, a person might try outpatient treatment, only to find that they are not successful. This does not mean that their situation cannot be resolved, simply that they need to become more intensive in their approach. An inpatient treatment facility can be a good choice to follow up a situation such as this.
Within each mode, certain features will be present:
- Therapy: Therapy will occur in an individual and/or group setting. It will help you to examine your life, including any behaviors, mindsets, or perspectives that might be fostering your alcohol abuse and hindering your chances of success. It will also teach you how to cope, specifically in regard to stressful situations or triggers that may precipitate your alcohol use, while also supporting and directing you in recognizing and establishing goals to help you within your recovery. In some instances, family or couples therapy might prove beneficial so that your loved ones can learn about how to better support you. These therapy sessions can also illustrate to them the ways they might be aggravating or enabling your drinking.
- Mutual-Help Groups (MHGs): These are support groups that bring people together who struggle or suffer with the same problems, in this case alcoholism. These help a person to step outside of the confines of their own experience by allowing them to see others whose lives have also been adversely affected by alcohol. These groups also provide acceptance, perspective, support, and accountability. Some examples include Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery.
- Education: Although education does occur through the two aforementioned methods, a person will also have other opportunities within treatment to learn about how they can best change their life while protecting and preserving their sobriety. Facilities offer classes that will help you both during and after your time within treatment. They will teach you about how the alcohol affects your body, mind, and emotions, and ways that you can become healthy in these areas. A thorough program should also teach you about relapse and give you skills to balance the situation should it arise.
It is important to keep in mind that these elements of treatment can and should also be important after rehabilitation, throughout various points within a person’s recovery. Recovery can be a difficult journey, and depending on the situation, reintegrating one or all of these things may help strengthen a person’s sobriety and give them the insight they need to continue to walk steadfastly within their recovery.
Dealing With Mental Health Concerns
As we’ve noted before, people often drink as an attempt to self-medicate. Some of the most common problems a person attempts to medicate are mental health issues. Some people might struggle from post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, or any of a number of personality disorders. In other cases, a person might seek to reduce or ignore their depression or anxiety by drinking. What is dangerous is that alcoholism can actually aggravate these conditions further.
If you suffer from these, or any other mental or medical health issues, it is crucial that you inform your addiction specialist with as many details as you know. This information can change the course of your treatment. If you suffer from a mental health disorder, you shouldn’t wait to treat it. As these conditions can exacerbate your drinking, you need to treat them concurrently in order to gain the best results.
Integrating Treatments For A More Successful Outcome
Today, specialists within addiction treatment are utilizing Medically-Assisted Treatment or Therapy (MAT). Many people have greater success with this method, which pairs the use of various drugs that treat alcoholism with therapy.
Alcohol can devastate a person’s body. In certain situations a person may need medication to help alleviate or moderate the symptoms or behaviors of alcoholism. Though these medications may standalone, research finds that they can be more effective if supported by therapy.
Utilizing Medication For Alcoholism
Some people struggle with the notion of taking a substance to help them in their pursuit of overcoming another. Taking medication is not a sign of weakness, rather it is a sign of strength to be able to acknowledge your problem and to commit to the best method of treatment for your situation. It is important to remember that if your alcoholism continues, the damage will continue to worsen and in the worst cases, it can lead to death. These medications can help you to alleviate the physical, mental, and emotional damage that your drinking causes.
The following are FDA approved for treatment of an alcohol addiction:
Acamprosate: This medicine is a good choice for people who suffer from a high level of dependence. It is used to treat withdrawal and to help people maintain their abstinence once it is achieved. NIDA cites the following as its benefit: “[it] may reduce symptoms of long-lasting withdrawal, such as insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, and dysphoria (generally feeling unwell or unhappy).
Disulfiram: This medication works by disrupting the breakdown of the alcohol within your body in a manner that makes a person physically sick and uncomfortable if they consume alcohol while taking it. For a person who was a chronic drinker and still working towards sobriety, they will need to take the medication on a regular schedule to increase its measure of effectiveness, thus requiring that he or she is committed to pursuing sobriety. A person should not consume this medication if they are currently drinking; a reaction may yet occur up to two weeks after ceasing use.
Naltrexone: This medication is helpful for individuals who are striving to prevent relapse. According to NIDA, it “blocks opioid receptors that are involved in the rewarding effects of drinking and in the craving for alcohol.” A person must be consistent in taking it daily, or if they feel they are unable to do so, they might be able to have it delivered via a monthly injection called Vivitrol.
NIDA notes that a fourth medication, Topiramate,“has shown promise in clinical trials.”
Let Us Help You Conquer Your Alcoholism
When someone suffers from alcoholism, it is easy to become overwhelmed. You might want help in seeking recovery but are unsure about how to move forward. That’s why we’re here. At AlcoholTreatment.net, we are familiar with the issues you face and can offer you patient and compassionate guidance in finding the treatment options that will work best for your life. Don’t delay, reach out and contact us to get your healthy life back.